The Replacements

Credit: Flickr/BriBri

In recent news, American Airlines has come out publicly to say that in the event of a flight attendant strike (over contract negotiations) the airline is committed to their operation and would consider training their managers and support staff as flight attendants.

Putting aside the ramifications and reasons over a strike, this is a bad, bad idea.

The managers and support staff would be put through a quick abbreviated flight attendant initial training course, focusing mostly on safety and security and not the customer service aspects of the position. Usually, flight attendant training courses range from 3 weeks to two months, depending on the airlines standards and training schedule. My fear, is that the airline will “push through” replacements that may not be 100% qualified for the position, in an effort to keep planes in the air.

With the recent influx of security scares at airports and heightened awareness of aircraft safety, would you feel safe with a full crew of replacement flight attendants working your flight?

It’s no secret that flight attendants have become your first defense in the air against terrorism and have proven time over time that they are properally trained to safely evacuate passengers from an aircraft in crisis, but can these replacements do the same?

Probably. The FAA needs to approve any abbreviated training program before American can legally train any replacement workers. Therefore, you would hope that any safety and security training modules that are imperative to doing the job of a cabin crew member wouldn’t be cut in lieu of time. But what worries me is the mindset of a replacement worker.

These people are being taken out of an office environment, thrown through an inflight training course (which, trust me, isn’t easy and is very stressful!) and placed in a metal tube for a ‘temporary’ amount of time with other ‘flight attendants’ new to the position as well. If they happen to encounter a medical emergency, diversion or god forbid an emergency landing no one on board that aircraft has any prior experience to draw upon to lead the other crew members through the situation. The best training after initial ground training is experience and guidance from those who have been doing this job for a decent amount of time.

Through you sit through a month of training on the ground, and run through various scenarios, being faced with a situation in the air is a completely different story. I remember my first medical emergency, it was a very scary experience. At first, I froze. I won’t lie. I did. I was in one of those moments where I thought “oh my god, this is really happening!” Luckily, I had 2 other flight attendants working with me, who had been flying for over 5 years, and to them this situation was “routine.” They sprung into action, assisted the passenger, and taught me the ‘real way’ of dealing with the situation. From that moment on, dealing with medical emergencies also became routine to me and I’m able to show our new hires how to handle this situation in the real world.

These flights being operated with replacement workers, won’t have experience to fall back on when things aren’t going according to the textbook.

In addition to these replacement workers, ex-TWA flight attendants (who have been laid off by American Airlines following the merger) have now come forward and said they would be willing to work in the event of a strike. Even though these are past flight attendants, with years of experience I would question their motive in returning to the skies for an airline that has jerked them around for the better part of almost 10 years. These flight attendants were stapled to the bottom of the American seniority list, laid off, offered buyouts, etc. and now what to “help the company out in a time of need.” Why?

All of this aside, the employees at American should understand where the flight attendant work group is coming from (as they too took paycuts to keep the airline running) and should support each other. Crossing a picket line isn’t going to win over new friends, just create more enemies which, in the end, will create further atomicity between work groups which will be seen by the passengers and ruin the airline.

Passengers need to understand that flight attendant’s don’t make as much money as they used to and have taken considerable paycuts through the last few years to keep their airlines operating. As the airlines are looking to increase revenue and decrease spending during the recession, it’s sad to say that in my opinion they are putting safety on the line as they further jerk around flight crews and allow them to work in a hostile work environment.

Though it is important to mention that not all airlines share the same beliefs and some take care of and work with their employees to make their company a great place to work.

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8 Responses

  1. “It’s no secret that flight attendants have become your first defense in the air against terrorism and have proven time over time that they are properally trained to safely evacuate passengers from an aircraft in crisis, but can these replacements do the same?”

    Not to be pedantic, but FAs aren’t the first line, they are much further down the list. First might be something like the FBI/CIA/NSA. Then local police. Then airport security. Then it’s a toss up between FAs and passengers (the shoe bomber and underwear bomber were both thwarted by passengers IIRC). Finally things like secure cockpits.

    Not to take anything away from the value of what FAs do, but they are neither the first nor last line of defense. They are still an important link in the chain though.

    • I agree. That’s why I said “in the air” once the door closes, we’re next on the chain of safety and security.

  2. RE: “These flight attendants were stapled to the bottom of the American seniority list, laid off, offered buyouts, etc. and now what to “help the company out in a time of need.” Why?” Perhaps so they can eat?

    Lets not forget the Foreign Nationals over there at AA that will also be crossing those picket lines just as they did during the 1993 strike. APFA did nothing to get rid of them during the last 17 years. In fact, their numbers have even grown! So now your fellow US citizens who want their jobs which are conveniently sacrificed to Foreign Nationals are the real issue. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Foreign Nationals are Americans little “Sweatshop workers” flying internationally out of MIA. Apparently the geniuses over at APFA fell for Americans lie that governments from three separate countries in Latin America required them to have these lower paid workers (or did APFA just make those rumors up because of its own complacency?). Face it APFA has disregarded the American worker and shafts the US tax payer with its furloughed attendants while AA continues with the support of APFA to have sweatshop workers. If APFA was a real union, those Nationals would have been let go years ago. Then there wouldn’t be any TWA people ready to cross the line (so they can eat!) because they would be fellow AA workers! …..Why is it that APFA members are so rude to the TWA people while they do nothing on these Nationals that all have jobs? What kind of a AFLCIO union disregards citizens and even lets the tax payers pay for its members to survive while allowing foreigners to take their jobs? This is unacceptable and APFA needs to be overthrown!
    APFA-Association of Perpetually Furloughed Americans. APFA-Association of Professional Foreign (national) Americans

    • WAV, I never understood by TWA FAs were treated like ‘step children’ at AA. It was a horrible thing that was done to them. I just was shocked that they’d be willing to fly for a company and/or a company who allowed their FA union to treat them as such. I do understand the need to work to survive, trust me, it just shocked me that they’d want to do so back at American.

      • I agree, but to tell you the truth if you had your wings taken from you, you would do anything to get them back! AA and APFA are really nervy in how they treat TWA people. These Nationals fly primo trips to Latin America….trips with sequences like: EZE-MIA 24 hour layover, MIA-GRU 36 hour layover, GRU-MIA 24 hour layover, MIA-EZE done. APFA tried to tell the members that AA was required by 3 different Latin American countries to have these workers (they were inherited from Eastern). But that’s just bogus and I have never heard of any country requiring a company to hire its flight attendants oh, and pay them less. I mean which ‘dictator’ negotiated this with American in 1991? Was it Fujimori in Peru? Perhaps Pinochet in Chile (they have both been long since overthrown)? People at AA are still on reserve with 16 years seniority and there are almost 2000 on unpaid furlough. Having these sweat shoppers flying routes is just unacceptable. If there were no fuloughs at AA it wouldn’t be such an issue but how long does the tax payer have to pay for Americans dealings? I have heard of suicides even amongst the former TWA people. I really am trying to spread the word about this and Americans dealings. APFA and AA continue to push this Foreign National Issue under the table. I just hate when they start beating up on the TWA people so much when all they wanted was to fly!

      • How some airlines handle this National Issue:

        I dont hate the Nationals, I just dont agree that they should be placed before our fellow American workers. After we are all employed then “Welcome” ^_^

  3. WOW, Bobby, So much to say on this Blog & Don’t even know where to start!!!

  4. Hi there, yup this article is actually nice and I have learned
    lot of things from it regarding blogging.
    thanks.

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