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American Airlines crew outraged after carrier forces them to sleep in airports

written by Isabella Richards | July 29, 2021
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER N720AN touches down at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER N720AN touches down at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

American Airlines pilots and flight crew unions have filed grievances to the carrier, claiming it has not provided sufficient transportation and hotels during layovers, which has seen crew forced to sleep in airports.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA) represents over 40,000 of American’s staff.

According to the unions, the airline has failed to provide appropriate facilities for staff on layovers, forcing them to arrange their own plans once landing, such as finding places to stay for themselves.

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Further, since the sudden spike in travel demand during the summer holidays in the US, tourism hot spots, including some in remote areas, have congested hotels or other places to rest.

APFA said it had received complaints from staff who said no rooms were available after landing and were slapped with “excessive” waiting times.

“We have flight attendants sleeping in airports and outside of baggage claim due to the company not providing hotel accommodations in a timely manner,” APFA national president Julie Hedrick said in a statement.

“Crew rest is being impacted, and clean, comfortable, and quiet rooms are not being provided for required rest.”

According to hotel data tracker STR, the week ending 17 July saw hotels with 71 per cent occupancy, the highest level since October 2019, before the pandemic.

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The airline told its staff to use an app to rebook hotels and transportation for themselves because of “irregular operations”, according to a memo seen by CNBC.

Staff on 17 July resorted to sleeping in cots at Glacier Park International Airport in Montana after delays that saw them reach their legal working limits.

According to the union, there were allegedly no available hotel rooms in the tourist destination.

APA told American that its crew should be reimbursed for the additional expenses they were slammed with when finding available hotel rooms.

The carrier has faced a slew of union issues this year already, as it has battled with crew shortages while travel demand climbs.

In May, American sent a memo to flight attendants advising to skip meals if there was no time, to avoid flight delays as travel picked up.

Aviation blog View from The Wing revealed the memo on 7 May.

“You may not have time to stop and get food, etc. on the way to the plane – particularly if you’re called at the last minute, so keep that in mind,” the memo said.

Staff were directed to go straight to the aircraft if called, without stopping for food or other items.

The president of the American Airlines Flight Attendants union responded in a memo sent to all staff at the airline.

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