By Kyle Arnold
From The Dallas Morning News
Unions for flight attendants and pilots at American Airlines say some crew members are being forced to sleep in airports because the company is failing to line up hotels, rooms, and transportation during layovers.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Allied Pilots Association filed a grievance with Fort Worth-based American Airlines on Tuesday night, saying that they have faced an increasing number of situations where they don’t have hotel rooms or transportation lined up from airports to hotels after landing.
And when they do land, they say there are facing hours-long waits on the phone with the help desk for their third-party vendor.
“We have flight attendants sleeping in airports and outside of baggage claim due to the company not providing hotel accommodations in a timely manner,” said a memo to flight attendants from union president Julie Hedrick. “Crew rest is being impacted, and clean, comfortable and quiet rooms are not being provided for required rest.”
Airlines such as Delta and Southwest have apologized to passengers in the last week, saying they have not been prepared as the number of summer passengers has surged. On Tuesday, Atlanta-based Delta said it planned to hire 5,000 more employees to help reduce hold times for call centers and to assist passengers in airports.
While American executives have said that delays and cancellations have slowed in recent weeks, pilots and flight attendants say they are struggling.
Allied Pilots Association spokesman Dennis Tajer said the company is increasingly relying on a third-party vendor, Travelliance, to book hotels and transportation for crew members during trips. He said American has significantly reduced the in-house department that helps pilots and flight attendants book rooms.
“There were problems like this coming into the pandemic, but they weren’t as rampant,” Tajer said. “But coming out of this pandemic, it flared like a wound.”
Flight attendants and pilots follow federal mandates for rest and time off between flights that can delay when they start flying the next day. Pilots and pilots are required to have 10 hours of rest between overnight shifts and 8 hours of uninterrupted rest.
American and other airlines are required to provide hotel rooms and transportation after flights based on contracts between the union and the company.
“If it takes you an extra hour to get to your hotel, now you are an hour late to your flight the next day,” Tajer said.
There has also been an increasing number of pilots calling in because of fatigue, he said. Spending hours on the phone trying to get hotel rooms is wearing on pilots, he said.
American Airlines, along with competitors such as Southwest, faced a rough patch in early June that delayed thousands and flights and led to hundreds of cancellations. American blamed weather problems and acknowledged that those weather problems caused several days of backups because the airline didn’t have enough crew or didn’t have them in the right places to fly.
At American, Tajer said the increase in delays and cancellations this summer has led to frequent occurrences where hotel rooms and transportation are canceled just because crew members are arriving a few hours late.
Sometimes pilots are doubling up in rooms, which wouldn’t be a problem if it only happened in extreme circumstances, Tajer said.
“If there is three feet of snow and everything is shut down, people understand that,” Tajer said. “But these are normal situations.”
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