This is a story about American Airlines, flight attendants, simple economics, and the 21st-century proclivity so many of us share: finding side hustles and trying to make a little extra money.
It’s also about “prohibited” practices, the risk of getting fired for pushing things too far, and the law of unintended consequences.
Let us start with the flight attendants. According to American Airlines and their union, the plan they came up with was not only legal but also ethical.
In other words, some senior flight attendants found a way to maximize their tenure for monetary gain.
It’s actually quite simple. Each month, flight attendants submit bids on routes they wish to fly with the airline. They are granted their requests largely based on seniority.
The longest-serving flight attendants are granted the best routes. We mean the most exotic and interesting — not Omaha overnights, which is fine for Omaha readers — but also the most lucrative financially.
So according to the union and the airline, senior flight attendants started bidding for the most desired trips even though they didn’t intend on flying them.
Then they would turn around and sell the winning bids on to more junior flight attendants. This is not a new practice. In 2018, American Airlines chided flight attendants who were selling their bids — and reportedly making an average of $200 for each flight.
The airlines were able to track this practice much easier after the pandemic and because there are now fewer highly sought-after flights. Both American Airlines and the union issued strong warnings.
“Management has made it clear that this illicit trip activity is prohibited,” the union cautioned its members this week, according to the flight attendant site, Paddle Your Own Kanoo. “If you trade or drop trips that are not intended by our scheduling systems, you may be disciplined, including termination. “
On Friday, the airline itself chimed in, according to View From the Wing:
While it’s disappointing that some of your co-workers choose to manipulate our systems for personal gain, we also know the vast majority of you play by the rules.
Simply put, if you are found to be abusing our system, it will most likely end your career.
I suspect it wasn’t the junior flight attendants who complained, but rather the ones who had just-enough seniority that they would have been able to bid on those more desirable flights, but for the fact that their more senior colleagues were bidding on them just to sell them.