Details of American Airlines’ latest Q and A session between employees and management raised real questions about employee morale and give the impression that, in many cases, where executives see a success story, rank-and-file workers are repeatedly sounding the alarm bell that the world’s largest airline is failing its customers on a daily basis.
The American Airlines management team has earned accolades in recent months for a policy of listening to employees and quickly addressing concerns and suggestions from the workforce. Recent reports seem to indicate, however, that executives now believe things at the airline are just fine as they are and leadership might not be quite as receptive as advertised when employees rock the boat.
It could be that the airlines top brass didn’t know what they were in for when they asked for feedback from the workforce. Last year, when the legacy carrier asked employees for their honest opinions about working conditions, employee morale and training, as well as evaluating operations and customer service, the results were perhaps a bit too honest.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker appears to have learned from his earlier mistake. At the most recent opportunity for employees to ask questions of top AA executives, Parker reportedly gave no quarter to employees with voicing concerns.
The Boarding Area’s Gary Leff Reports that when a flight attendant questioned the airline’s standards of onboard service and the training she and her coworkers received, she was simply told that everything was going according to plan. Ignoring the fact that the concerned cabin crew member told her boss that standards at American “suck compared to United and Delta,” the CEO said he was quite proud of the airline’s cabin service.
“We work really hard to match our service to our competitors, and they do the same to us,” Parker is said to have told the worried employee.
This, despite the fact that the airline’s Vice President of Inflight Service Jill Surdek expressed real concerns about the airline’s service and training in earlier public comments. She even unveiled a series of new training initiatives earlier this year to address the issue.
“We’ve heard that feedback for several years that new hire training we’re not providing as much service training as we should,” Surdek explained. “That’s very fair feedback. We’re in the process right now of taking the curriculum. We’re not expanding the number of days, but we’re taking two days and we’re going to be adding more food service training – more service and more training and bidding experience in the program that starts in 2019.”
In the same Q and A style meeting with workers, Parker earlier dismissed a captain’s belief that minimal customer service considerations were taking a backseat to stringent operational concerns. He told the pilot that passengers would rather leave on time than count on customer service niceties. Later, after thanking mechanics for making sacrifices for the good of the company, he declined to name any sacrifices in the past or present that he had made for the airline.
“It doesn’t matter – I could answer that question but it’s just going to sound like I’m just telling you all sorts of stuff,” Parker replied by way of a politically perfect non-answer. “I’m blessed. I’ve had a really great life and I’m really happy about it and what I really want to do is make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of this team. So while we’ve all made sacrifices, some are greater than others and what we want to go do is make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of this team, ensure we have a competitive business that can be here forever and take care of our team members as we believe we should.”