The Chicago Business Journal has revealed a small fraction of the more than 50,000 responses to an American Airlines program allowing employees to air their comments and concerns.
On the face of things, American Airlines’ “American Voice” initiative has the potential to give management at the world’s largest airline an opportunity to learn a great deal from employees on the front lines everyday. The program, in which the carrier’s more than 100,000 employees were urged to provide honest feedback about their workplace, might yet be a success, but so far the process sounds simply brutal.
The Chicago Business Journal obtained some of responses to the general call for unfiltered feedback. If the candid and anonymous submissions from this one group of pilots is any indication, then the airline has some fences to mend. An astounding 50 percent of the company’s active employees took part in the American Voice program in this, its first year.
As one might expect, the fiasco involving issues with the airline’s controversial new crew uniforms was front and center on the minds of crew members. The company has agreed to phase out the uniforms, which have been tied to health issues, but many employees believe the process will take too long while workers continue to get sick.
“UNIFORMS, UNIFORMS, UNIFORMS!” one crew member begged. “Replace the Twin Hill uniforms in our workplace now! We cannot wait three years! Do the right thing and do it now! Please!”
Other “unvarnished” feedback took aim at the company culture as a whole. “I feel betrayed by American Airlines,” one pilot wrote. “I work for the only airline who hates their pilots,” another crew member lamented. “Is that what you want?”
“Flight department needs to embrace and support the fact that women work here,” a female employee complained in a troubling indictment of the company’s attitude towards workplace equality. “Tired of the boy’s club mentality.”
The legacy carrier hopes that while the truth hurts, it can also be an instrument of positive change. Officials caution, however, that those changes won’t come overnight. American Airlines VP Patrick O’Keeffe says the airline is in the process of holding “listening sessions” and will soon get to work on a variety of plans to hopefully address many of the concerns raised by its employees.
“Some of it will be at the local level, some at the corporate level,” O’Keeffe told the newspaper on Thursday. He added that the airline is committed to the process and despite some harsh feedback, he fully expects the American Voice program to take place every year for the foreseeable future.