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American Airlines boosts flight attendants’ pay ahead of holiday travel

American Airlines Group Inc. said it would pay flight attendants extra to work during peak holiday-travel periods as the carrier seeks to avoid staff shortfalls that contributed to more than 2,000 canceled flights last weekend and early this week.

The airline is looking to avoid another meltdown as it prepares for what many carriers expect to be a bustling holiday season.

“To ensure we’re providing certainty for both our customers and team members, we’re doubling down on our efforts related to our schedule and staffing,” Chief Operating Officer David Seymour wrote in a memo to employees Friday.

Flight attendants who work during peak periods over the holiday season will earn 150% of their normal pay. And those who have no absences between Nov. 15 and Jan. 2 will receive triple pay for the hours worked during holiday periods.

American said that bad weather at its Dallas-Fort Worth hub initially triggered the cascade of cancellations last week. But the airline said staffing woes exacerbated the challenges as it burned through reserves of flight attendants and pilots and didn’t have enough crews to cover all its flying.

Airlines urged thousands of employees to take buyouts or extended leaves during the depths of the pandemic last year and haven’t yet returned to full force. They have stumbled several times in recent months as travel demand increased sharply this year, catching carriers off guard. Airlines including Southwest Airlines Co. and Spirit Airlines Inc. have said they would cut back on flying plans to run more reliably.

Mr. Seymour wrote Friday that American had ensured its November and December schedules are “fully supportable by our staffing.”

Nearly 1,800 American flight attendants returned from leaves of absence this week, and another 800 are due to return next month, which should also help boost staffing levels, Mr. Seymour wrote.

The difficulties have contributed to strains between airlines and labor groups, with unions alleging that carriers including American have been running without enough staff to insulate them from unexpected setbacks like bad weather.

Brady Byrnes, American’s vice president of flight services, acknowledged the difficulties.

“From mother nature wreaking havoc on the operation, the myriad of policy changes you’ve had to keep up with and an increase in incidents of customer misconduct, you’ve been dealing with a lot,” Mr. Byrnes wrote in a separate memo Friday explaining the incentive program.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American’s flight attendants, said it had negotiated the extra pay with the airline and believes it would provide some relief after a difficult period when employees faced uncertain schedules and other challenges like lack of transportation and hotel rooms.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

 

 

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