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American Airlines

American Airlines Flight Attendant to CEO: We “Suck Compared to United and Delta”

American Airlines Flight Attendant to CEO: We “Suck Compared to United and Delta”
Jeff Edwards

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.”

View Comments (6)


  1. Pocketbird

    November 26, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I mean I get the United. They are decreasing their FAs on long hual, and their 787 -8 and -9 seats, well, suck. Delta is by far the best. United is also the only airline that doesn’t allow a carry on w/ basic economy.

  2. strickerj

    November 26, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I work in a different industry, but I was told of a colleague who was fired for providing feedback that management apparently didn’t want to hear in response to a supposedly anonymous survey. So, forgive me if I seem to have a jaded view toward these things, but it sounds as though the top brass at American just wanted employees to tell them everything was great and weren’t actually looking to make improvements.

  3. j2simpso

    November 26, 2018 at 9:30 am

    File this under stating the obvious. Can anyone honestly tell me one time when AA didn’t blow?

  4. Bretteee

    November 26, 2018 at 10:19 am

    True. United made a real effort to improve their meals to Europe in economy. No more lettuce but a decent salad. And instead of that vile chocolate brownie ice cream. Also for about $100 more one can get extra leg space. United ironically is becoming my favorite way to fly to Europe.

  5. Flyerholic

    November 27, 2018 at 3:36 am

    I agree with this American Airlines flight attendant. Just flew LAX-LHR-LAX on the 777-300 in business class. The seat is still one of the best in the air on this aircraft in my opinion, The food was good and the variety of entertainment top notch, but the crew on both sectors were disengaged and just went through the motions. Sitting near the galley I did pick up on some of the galley chat and they were rather scathing of Head Office.

  6. navigator4309

    November 27, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Parker’s ability to dismiss, ignore and patronise his shareholders, employees and pax is baffling. Supposedly strategically running an airline, yet can’t see past his own ego.

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