You would think that flight attendants would be happy about their employer spending more to take care of customers. After all, a happy customer is easier to work with and there is a certain sense of pride that comes from offering a product that makes the customer say, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” But in the case of American Airlines’ new turn-down service for first class passengers, the APFA flight attendant union has expressed outrage instead. Here’s part of a note that went out to AA FAs:
This week American announced their new ‘Turn Down’ service on international flights. When briefed by the company APFA cautioned them that more research needed to be done to ensure this was not going to cause an unreasonable workload for the Flight Attendants, and not in violation of the 777 agreement. The company has chosen to move forward. Therefore, we will be filing a Presidential Grievance and compiling information from the field concerning this service…
A Presidential Grivenace over turn-down service? Only in the airline industry–an industry where it seems like the workers spend more trying to avoid work (or at least gripe about it) than actually doing it. And I don’t make that statement flippantly…
Let’s look it at it from the FA’s perspective for a moment: indeed, it would have been nice if AA had let them know and sought extended feedback before implementing the new program. As valued team members, it would have been respectful and appropriate to solicit comments and advice from those front-line employees that must implement corporate policy changes. And perhaps there is some safety concern if the duvets are large and hang into the aisle, creating a tripping risk for those veteran FAs who cannot afford to break a hip.
But we are talking about turn-down service!
How long does it take to turn down a bed? 30 seconds at the most? Six minutes in a full first class cabin? And so what if the duvet sticks out a little? FAs have now been notified and can use that little flashlight they are supposed to carry if they are really worried about tripping.
When FAs nitpick over issues like this, it diminishes their credibility when they express more substantive grievances like the issue of salary, benefits, or cost-sharing. Why the APFA would choose to pick a fight over this befuddles me–it simply reinforces the stereotype that American (and not just AA) flight attendants are lazy and bitter.
Anyone who flies as much as I do on U.S. carriers knows this is not the truth, but I simply cannot defend action like this. I will go so far as to say shame on the APFA for even making this an issue.