Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page > Why does UA use American FAs for language speakers?

Why does UA use American FAs for language speakers?

Reply

Old Dec 10, 17, 12:11 am
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: OZ Diamond/*G, AZ ST E+, UA Gold MM, SPG/Marriott Gold, IHG Spire Amb, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 1,752
Why does UA use American FAs for language speakers?

I noticed that many of the FAs on UA's international routes are Americans who speak the language that they wear the flag of as a 2nd language. For example, Japanese speakers who wear the Japanese flag on their uniform but obviously aren't fluent. I sat next to a Japanese couple (the couple was bilingual but obviously preferred to communicate in Japanese) on a recent flight to Japan and every time the couple spoke to the Japanese speaking FA she would look uncomfortable and respond in English. I assume the reason they don't have more fluent FAs is because they can't find them, which begs the question of why they don't hire people from the destination country. Wouldn't they also save money, especially for countries where wages are significantly lower (like China, for example)?
1353513636 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 12:29 am
  #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Programs: UA MP
Posts: 1,476
I fly UA to/from Japan all the time and most of the Japanese speaking FAs are clearly native (note: I live in Japan and have done stuff like simultaneous interpreting so yeah, I can tell). Sometimes there are nonnative speakers but I can only think of one flight recently where the person obviously wasn't native (might have been AA though). Actually, sometimes the UA Japanese FAs aren't good at English, so I have to communicate with them in Japanese. NH and JL flight attendants are generally terrible at English and they basically only employ Japanese (last flight there was a Korean, although I highly suspect her family had lived in Japan for generations).

There are two GAs for UA in Chicago that I usually see at the NRT flight (and the NH flight to HND) that are obviously native speakers as well.

It is generally hard to find and keep employees who are good at two languages for many industries, not even considering the job and pay of an FA.
acregal is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:04 am
  #3
 
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 7,728
Based on my experience with Chinese, I question UA's language qualification standards: What does it take for FA to be Language Qualified? so this is not a surprise.
username is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:04 am
  #4
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: NRT / HND
Programs: UA 1K, DL PM
Posts: 3,808
I fly the NRT routes frequently and there are always native Japanese speakers on the plane. Sometimes the American flight attendants speak some Japanese, but they aren't the primary Japanese speakers for the flight.
dvs7310 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:15 am
  #5
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: TX
Programs: UA Plat, Marriott G, Hilton G, SPG G
Posts: 249
So you’re advocating for a US company to employ non-US citizens preferentially?
rch4u and AStarr like this.
txaggiemiles is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:18 am
  #6
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: SFO / HGH
Programs: UA 1K, AS MVPG 75K, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold
Posts: 924
Originally Posted by 1353513636 View Post
I noticed that many of the FAs on UA's international routes are Americans who speak the language that they wear the flag of as a 2nd language. For example, Japanese speakers who wear the Japanese flag on their uniform but obviously aren't fluent. I sat next to a Japanese couple (the couple was bilingual but obviously preferred to communicate in Japanese) on a recent flight to Japan and every time the couple spoke to the Japanese speaking FA she would look uncomfortable and respond in English. I assume the reason they don't have more fluent FAs is because they can't find them, which begs the question of why they don't hire people from the destination country. Wouldn't they also save money, especially for countries where wages are significantly lower (like China, for example)?
I think UA goes way above what other foreign carriers do with their FA's and their English ability. I don't see Asian carriers hiring native English speakers for their flights, and most of the time I find their FA's to be unintelligble for anything other than basic requests.
narvik likes this.

Last edited by pushmyredbutton; Dec 10, 17 at 2:27 am Reason: typo ;)
pushmyredbutton is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:49 am
  #7
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Australia
Programs: NZ *G
Posts: 5,101
Originally Posted by pushmyredbutton View Post
I think UA goes way above what other foreign carriers do with their FA's and their English ability. I don't see Asian carriers hiring native English speakers for their flights, and most of the time I find their FA's to be intelligible for anything other than basic requests.
This. Well..I think you meant UNintelligble. IME Western airlines (those with a real international network anyway) do a reasonable job of employing native speakers of destination countries... in a way I have NOT witnessed on Chinese or Japanese carriers.....or Singapore airlines, or Thai (although Ive had less problem making myself understood on those two) Now don't get me wrong.... I do NOT expect/demand/require airlines from non-English speaking countries to have staff who are uniformly fluent in MY language...but if Western airlines are expected to meet a certain standard...well..... lets be consistent.
Aussienarelle likes this.
trooper is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 1:51 am
  #8
Moderator: Manufactured Spending
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 5,772
I imagine it would complicate scheduling to have crew based at outstations. It's much simpler and more efficient to have larger crew bases at the major hubs.

I would have no objection if they preferentially hired people who had superior language skills, even if they were non-US citizens.
cbn42 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:17 am
  #9
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Programs: UA, Starwood, Priority Club, Hertz, Costco Platinum Executive
Posts: 3,617
IIRC, PMUA had FA domiciles in both TPE and HKG, which were staffed with local hires. Those FAs were not allowed to wear the same uniforms, in order to be differentiated from U.S.-based FAs. Later contracts with AFA forced UA to close those domiciles.
sinoflyer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:24 am
  #10
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: SFO
Programs: UA- 1K 1.95MM
Posts: 17
most of the Japanese is mealy spoken from the manual and not translated from the English lead attendant or purser. it is all scripted unless something unusual comes up during the flight.
wantmiles is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:37 am
  #11
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: SFO / HGH
Programs: UA 1K, AS MVPG 75K, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold
Posts: 924
Originally Posted by trooper View Post
This. Well..I think you meant UNintelligble.
Yes, total lapse of language ability there
pushmyredbutton is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:38 am
  #12
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Houston
Programs: UA Premier 1K, SPG Gold, Marriott Gold
Posts: 9,955
Originally Posted by 1353513636 View Post
Wouldn't they also save money, especially for countries where wages are significantly lower (like China, for example)?
I'd guess the union results in no cost savings for having foreign FAs.
mduell is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:42 am
  #13
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Programs: UA 1K; DL GM 2MM
Posts: 7,901
The union insisted. Plain and simple. Most of the "language qualified" FAs would be at a complete loss in an emergency or any other off script exercise. That said, there are some FAs who have made a pretty good effort to become proficient in a foreign language.
5khours is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 2:59 am
  #14
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: SFO / HGH
Programs: UA 1K, AS MVPG 75K, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold
Posts: 924
Originally Posted by 5khours View Post
The union insisted. Plain and simple. Most of the "language qualified" FAs would be at a complete loss in an emergency or any other off script exercise. That said, there are some FAs who have made a pretty good effort to become proficient in a foreign language.
Almost all of the 'language qualified' FA's on UA have always seemed to have a proficient grasp of the language they are qualified in, to the point where I'd consider them fluent. This includes many of the Mandarin and Spanish language FA's I've encountered. Even if their ability isn't 100% perfect, I stand by my earlier statement that it's still leaps and bounds better than the English ability on any Asian carrier.

Taking your scenario, to think what would happen if say Air China or ANA had an off-the-script scenario or emergency? I can barely understand most FA's on a good day reading from the script.
canadiancow likes this.
pushmyredbutton is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Dec 10, 17, 3:02 am
  #15
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Berlin, Germany; Surrey, UK; and SW Florida
Programs: BA Gold, UA Premier Platinum, Hyatt Globalist
Posts: 18,417
Originally Posted by txaggiemiles View Post
So you’re advocating for a US company to employ non-US citizens preferentially?
Sure. Best person for the job and all that...
Ghentleman likes this.
LondonElite is offline  
Reply With Quote
 


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 9:11 pm.

Home - News - Forum - Hotel Reviews - Glossary - Contact Us - Airport Code Lookup - Terms of Use - Privacy Policy - Cookie Policy - Advertise on FlyerTalk - Archive - Top

This site is owned, operated, and maintained by Flyertalk.com. Copyright © 2017 FlyerTalk.com. All rights reserved. Designated trademarks are the property of their respective owners.