American Airlines To Cut Crew Numbers On Widebody Flights

This week, American Airlines has shared that it will reduce the number of flight attendants on its widebodied aircraft. The carrier is taking the approach in a bid to save money amid the pandemic. Despite its money-saving tactics, the move that has angered the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

American Airlines 777-200
American Airlines’ widebodies will have less staff. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines staff gets thinner

It’s been a tough couple of months for American Airlines among other carriers. However, thanks to federal support in the form of the Payroll Support Program, things have gotten easier. That said, in a few weeks, US airlines will be looking to make proactive changes to cut their spending.

As part of the CARES Act, beneficiary airlines agreed to keep staff on their books until October 1st. That deadline is approaching fast, and it is leading American Airlines to rethink its employee strategy.

Earlier this week, the US airline said it would be cutting staff from some of its widebody aircraft from next month. The reason? To save money on cabin crew wages. Its decision affects teams on the following aircraft:

  • Boeing 777-300s;
  • Boeing 777-200s; and
  • the 787-9 Dreamliner.

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American 787
American’s Dreamliners will be affected. Photo: Getty Images

Complying with FAA guidelines

American Airlines will lose two flight attendants from its Boeing 777-300 services. There will now be 11 cabin crew, rather than 13. In addition, it will also get rid of one attendant from each 777-200 and 787-9 service. This will bring the total number of cabin crew on these flights to nine.

One of American’s narrowbody aircraft will also get a staff downgrade. Just five attendants will serve Airbus A321 flights instead of six.

To remain compliant with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, American Airlines must have at least one attendant for every 50 passengers. The new layout will allow American Airlines to have an adequate amount of crew members and enough staff to cover breaks.

Flight attendant walks off plane
American must have one flight attendant for every 50 passengers. Photo: American Airlines

By cutting onboard flight attendants, American Airlines will be able to save money on salaries. However, it is now at its limit. It will not be able to remove any more attendants without breaking FAA regulations. To manage its spending, it will have to look at other ways to save.

Furloughs and flexible working

Of the 19,000 employees that American Airlines plans to furlough or layoff from October 1st, 8,100 are flight attendants. Those cabin crew members who do end up keeping their jobs will work under more demanding conditions.

American is looking to have more cabin crew on stand-by as it cuts staff where it can. In addition, there will be fewer long-haul flights to choose from, allowing the airline to save money on salaries on lengthy services.

American 787
The APFA will intervene to help where it can. Photo: Getty Images

For American to stop burning through $55m a day, these tweaks are essential. However, they have not been well received. In an internal email seen by Simple Flying, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said that it,

“strongly objects to any staffing changes” and “did not participate in any discussions related to the staffing level changes.”

It went on to say that it would,

“continue to fight for fair and adequate staffing and a return to our normal staffing guidelines.”

Though the APFA will try to fight for flight attendants, there is very little that American will be able to do to make this a more comfortable situation. It has its survival to think about and is also the victim of unprecedented circumstances. No airline will take losing its valued staff members lightly; however, it doesn’t seem as though American Airlines had another option.

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