Leaked American Airlines Memo on Aircraft Changes And Why US Airways Flight Attendants Are Unhappy

We’re going to see more transatlantic destinations coming to American Airlines, and a bunch of changes to the planes that are flying American’s international routes.

None of that’s especially surprising — one of the things that the merger allows American to do is take legacy American Airlines planes and put them on historically US Airways routes and vice versa based on matching the best equipment to route (some US Airways routes might have had planes that were too small, some routes might have had planes that were too big, the goal is to be… just right).

However what is surprising is that we’ll be seeing this on prime international routes that flight attendants love to fly before the airline integrates flight attendants of the two airlines. American still isn’t set up to have legacy American Airlines flights attendants fly legacy US Airways aircraft and vice versa, or to mix legacy American and legacy US Airways flight attendant crews on the same flights.

So when they take a European route historically flown by US Airways and assign a legacy America Airlines plane to fly it, that means US Airways flight attendants lose the opportunity and American Airlines flight attendants pick it up. It also means moving crew around the system to put them in place to do the flying.

  • American has been flying legacy US Airways 757s to Hawaii. Those planes were leased and are being returned to the lessor.

  • So US Airways transatlantic 757s are going to replace them on Hawaii routes, coming off of Philadelphia – Europe flying.

  • Some Philadelphia – Europe routes will see legacy American Airlines 757s and 767s as a result.

This is good for customers. It means seeing planes with fully flat seats on the transatlantic routes, which is something that American has committed to so shouldn’t come as a surprise (and it was unlikely they were going to reconfigure leased 757s).

However the legacy US Airways flight attendants who are losing some Europe flying are not at all happy, since they won’t get to work those flights until American completes flight attendant integration. The airline handed out big raises to employees but this is likely to undermine some of the goodwill they had hoped for.

Here’s a memo sent to Philadelphia-based flight attendants from American Airlines Network Planning, via Flyertalk moderator TWA884:

Network Planning, Crew Operations and Flight Service
Thursday, June 8, 2017
All PHL-based flight attendants

Summer 2018 PHL international flying

This is the time of year we start loading our flight schedules into Sabre (our reservations system) for the following summer. You may have seen on social media that the PHL-LIS route is changing from a LUS aircraft to a LAA aircraft beginning in April 2018. First, we are incredibly sorry if you found out this way. We’re trying to be as transparent with you as possible – especially on things that affect your work life – and our plan was to share this aircraft swap once we had a better picture of the full summer schedule. Unfortunately this change was loaded into Sabre prematurely. To avoid something similar happening in the future, we want to share everything we know about next summer’s flying, including the background on this swap and some other changes you’ll see in 2018.

We are in the process of retiring some of the Boeing 757 (“B75H”) aircraft historically flown to our Hawaii markets. We don’t own these aircraft and the majority of our leases are set to expire. Unfortunately, extending our lease isn’t possible because the lessor has already committed these aircraft to other airlines. When looking at what aircraft to put on routes, we have to consider our network and fleet as a whole. The best decision to backfill them is to use the B757s (“B75E”) currently deployed in PHL-LIS, PHL-GLA and PHL-SNN.

That means we need to put new aircraft on those PHL-based international flights. As a result, we will be assigning LAA B757s and B767s to PHL-LIS, PHL-GLA and PHL-SNN for summer 2018. These are the aircraft that best match customer demand, stage length and other variables. Until FOI in October 2018, it also means these seasonal routes must be flown by LAA-based flight attendants. In addition, next summer we will be adding two new seasonal international routes from PHL that will also be flown with LAA B767s.

We fully recognize how big of a deal this is. While none of these changes will result in flight attendant displacements or furloughs, we understand the implications this will have on those who like to fly these routes and the overall effect this will have on those who prefer to fly high time each month. From our base visits we also know that many of you are really disappointed about the delay of flight attendant operational integration (FOI). This, combined with the news of the metal swaps on these premium international routes next summer, makes it even harder. You have our commitment that we will come up with options to make this better for you and make sure you are not negatively impacted. We are looking at a lot of things we can do and will share more in the next month or two once the full summer schedule is finalized.

PHL is and will continue to be a key hub in our international network. Though it doesn’t feel this way now, this will be more flying for PHL as a hub, and ultimately for you.

Again, this is not the way we envisioned breaking this news and we sincerely apologize. As soon as we’ve firmed up our plan, we’ll share those details and will be in PHL to answer your questions face-to-face.

In the meantime, we’ve started an online frequently asked questions (FAQs) page that’s posted to Crew Change.


VP, Network Planning
VP, Crew Operations
VP, Flight Service

Ultimately we should see a couple of additional Philadelphia – Europe routes announced and that should please Philadelphia-based flight attendants.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. AA and US merged in December 2013. The fact that they have not integrated their fleet and workforce 3.5 years later is an indictment of both management and the unions. You reap what you sow.

  2. As a PHL based flier I love this news. While I predominately fly AA Domestic, I love to see that PHL remains in the forefront. With the addition of the new AA Flagship lounge and the Amex Centurion lounge, PHL is going to retain its status as a top hub on the east coast. Hopefully this will lead to AA improving its domestic service next and getting rid of those terrible 319s/320s on trans con routes!

  3. rjb…Doug Parker et al never managed to fully finalize all the other ‘mergers’ which took place prior to this last one w/AA, so it really can’t be much of a surprise to anyone that they haven’t finalized this one. The real surprise will be if he & the rest of his minions are anywhere in sight when/if this merger is really & truly finalized.

  4. Getting rid of at some awful LUS B757 is always a welcome development and so is a replacement of B757 by widebodies on the transatlantic routes.
    I still don’t have any warm feelings about PHL after quite a few customer “experiences” when flying LUS. Often, I do find myself of unconsciously trying to avoid PHL as much as possible.

  5. The same is true with the UA/CO merger – the FA’s voted on a new unified contract but the crews are not yet integrated. Even the service standards are different. The PS service between EWR & LAX/SFO were traditionally UA crews yet two days ago I had a CO crew (you can always tell the difference). On a UA flight, there is always a purser and that person almost always works the first cabin. on a flight with a CO crew it’s an “inflight services coordinator” and he or she works the main cabin. I know that many seasoned UA crews work the PS flights and a Purser usually has a few years under their belt. On my last PS flight, the inflight services coordinator literally just graduated from flight school. We talked a bit and he said that the airline does extensive safety training 95% of the time and that the service training takes about 5% of the time and “on board experience”. Makes me wonder what the quals are for a lead FA. Sad. And I know it’s true with the AA/US integration as well.

  6. Doug Parker has ruined American Airlines likely forever
    In my wildest imagination he did far more damage than I thought possible
    He damaged the employees morales the FF program and award availability and gouges the American public in every way
    Even when selling revenue tickets
    All my colleagues are on other carriers after 20 years of loyalty self included

  7. Gary, What really strikes me is the “human” apologetic tone used in explaining the changes. It would be kinda nice if AA sounded as friendly and caring when they lop off yet another elite benefit, no?

  8. From our base visits we also know that many of you are really disappointed about the delay of flight attendant operational integration (FOI).

    So, can you explain, in words small enough that someone as stupid as I am can understand, why “FOI” still hasn’t happened?

    Is this a “Union contract” thing? Is it “AA is so cheap they simply won’t pay for the training time needed to get everyone qualified on everything”?

    If it’s a Union thing, is it the UA FA union, the AA FA Union, or bother that’s the stumbling block?

    Thanks!

  9. @GregD. FOI in this case refers to the scheduling, bidding, and trip support IT systems (among others) for flight attendants that must be integrated. The process is much, much more complex than training, which is relatively simple. The delay in completion has nothing to do with union issues. I find it amusing that so many commenters here are armchair quarterbacking on this. AA’s passenger integration happened fast and flawlessly — that is monumentally difficult and they did it. They’ve also completed their pilot integration — without any hiccoughs. United still has not integrated their F/As even though their merger happened many years prior to AA’s. Lighten up folks, AA is trying to do the Flight Attendant FOI with NO INTERRUPTION TO YOUR TRAVEL. That seems like the right priority to me. AA will save heaps of money from an integrated F/A workforce so they have every motivation to complete it ASAP.

  10. Interesting to hear about PHL. I assumed they kinda gave up on PHL. Hopefully they will lower the rates a bit to be competitive because it still makes more sense for me to drive an extra 60-90 minutes to JFK vs going to PHL because the prices are just that high…

  11. Well, okay on the PHL hub, if you will.

    But for those of us out in flyover country, it is just the same, an irritating stop sort of halfway coming back from/going to Europe.

    Better than JFK or Atlanta? Maybe not as chaotic and crowded and just plain nasty. But like RDU or CLT, PIT, so on, PHL is almost impossible to connect onward. From JFK at least it is possible to fly JetBlue and get out of those constricting tiny economy seats.

    If possible, I try to fly back directly to LAX and return home from there. OR, I come in to the US at DFW, ORD or IAH and proceed on with a shorter last lap. Those airports have flights to the whole country. Is anyone thinking about the customers?

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