Viral Resignation Letter From American Airlines From A Flight Attendant That Had Enough

There’s an American Airlines flight attendant resignation letter which is going viral amongst cabin crew and others at the airline. It purports to show what’s wrong with the culture at American Airlines but for the most part I don’t think that it does this at all.

Instead it details that flight attendant is not a high paying job. The schedules can be grueling. Dealing with passengers can be hard, and when you’re up in the air you’re on your own with little support. You see many people, passengers dealing with the worst that life throws at them and a clash of cultures between seat opponents who bring their own priors to travel, which has become increasingly small-d democratic over the past 45 years.

There’s no question that being a flight attendant isn’t for everyone. Yet people still line up hoping for the job. There’s a sense of adventure, seeing the world on the company’s dime, which can be attractive for someone that isn’t well-traveled. There’s a huge appeal to airline travel benefits, but with low pay to start it can be tough to afford to use them. And with planes that are full it can be tough to take advantage of them anyway – the benefits are much more in theory than in practice if you want to go where most people want to go, when they want to go there.

I’m not going to speculate on the reasons why a flight attendant may have ended their life, if true, except to say that post-partum depression is real. And the stuff about eliminating the charge for revenue passengers to standby being what makes non-revenue travel so hard is a canard with little basis in fact.

  • There are still the same number of passengers
  • And the same number of seats
  • It means there may be some more shifting around before at the margin of which passengers go on which flights, which can make nonrev travel planning in advance harder as the airline accommodates paying customers.

Where I really do feel for this flight attendant is in wanting to take leave from their job to care for an elderly family member, and having that denied. Caring for a parent qualifies for FMLA leave while caring for a grandparent does not.

The company asked people to take leave during the pandemic, but when employees ask to take leave they aren’t as accommodating though there are reasons to want consistent standards for granting leave and to bias towards making sure they have the staff necessary to execute on their schedule. Still, that seemed like the wrong outcome here.

At the end of the day being a flight attendant can be lonely, and not everyone will enjoy its rewards. I’m glad to see those who don’t find it their passion realize it and move on, hopefully to find something more fulfilling – and hopefully they’re able to care for family in the meantime while they still have that chance.

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, 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. Feel bad for this employee based on her story. Many corporations, made up of humans of course, very often act inhumane towards good, dedicated employees. This includes airlines. No front line or lower-level management person is immune to this. Just move on and build a new career for yourself. This too shall pass.

  2. There are NOT the same number of passengers on each flight. The fact is, the flights are fuller than normal because the number of flights to certain cities has been reduced if not eliminated completely. Please factor that into your equation. That is a fact you neglected to point out. Passengers who fly on the carrier I work for point this out very often so I know that employees aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of reduced flight schedules.

  3. Sadly, this type of corporate greed has become the norm in the airline industry, especially in the US. In the absence of industry-wide bans on disruptive passengers and the industry treating their employees as valued partners, there won’t be any changes soon. The boardrooms of the ‘Big 3’ are packed with those putting profit over humane treatment of their employees and customers. Inthe airline industry, as the old saying goes: “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

  4. I am a Platinum-for-Life passenger on American but I rarely fly with them anymore and the FA’s are a big part of the reason. In the 40 years that I flew with them all over the world I saw the quality of service and, in particular, their attitude toward their customers and their job plummet. Especially the senior personnel.

  5. Having worked for almost 10 different airlines, I feel that I’m qualified to comment on the letter of resignation. I agree it is sad (and it’s been this way for a long, long time) but the last three words are wrong. You may think “we deserve better” but in reality, as employees, we deserve what our union negotiates for us . . . nothing more, nothing less.

  6. @ Mr. Flyer. Like many of us who have retired from an airline(s) we discovered the solution for the inability to travel NRSA . . . internet fares. If you are an active employee you know when your vacation is and can also take advantage of this rather than fret about the loads, which in my experience vary greatly from what is forecast. Remember when we had to travel in “business attire”? Well I can now travel on a ticket in my running shorts and Let’s Go Brandon t-shirt, not that I would . . . I’m from the “old school”.
    @ Gary. Thanks. I enjoyed the morning reading.

  7. Hey Gary. I’m gonna rebuttal your rebuttal about the eliminating the charge for passengers to standby for free on earlier flights. Look at it from the perspective of the employee.

    – Passenger books on last flight of a given day because it’s significantly cheaper as nobody wants to get to their destination late.
    – Passenger standbys for free to earlier flight which in most cases, costs significantly more.

    AA employee “nonrevving” prioritizes by tiers and by check-in time. Let’s focus on just the check-in time as that’s really whats important.

    – Employee checks in for earliest flight of day. They get to the airport at 7am for a 8:45am flight.
    – Customer arrives at same time to try to standby on that same flight for free (confirmed seat at time of booking was $1000 for that flight vs $600 the later flight they booked on)
    – Employee gets bumped down 1 more spot on the standby list
    – Customer gets a seat on flight because of a no-show. Employee doesn’t get on.
    – Employee has to wait for the next flight.
    – Same thing happens with more customers standbying to earlier flights. Employee doesn’t get on.
    – Employee waits at airport all day to get on the last flight of the day at 8:30pm. 10 customers who did standby for earlier flights get to their destination earlier and save hundreds of $.

    This scenario is 100% possible at any major airlines hubs. Sometimes employees “nonrev” to commute for work. Sometimes they do it for other things. Their complaint about their benefits being brought down to almost useless are valid. All of the airlines typically pay less than market value for any position as they consider the “nonrev” benefit to be valued anywhere betweek $4k-10k per year.

    The corporate side somehow doesn’t also see it as a concern to constantly have to adjust their staffing schedule when re-accommodating these passengers as well as lost revenue.

    Before the pandemic, the change fee to standby for an earlier flight was $75 if you get on the flight. United lead the way in removing this fee, and the other airlines obviously followed suit.

    Airlines are now constantly looking at the metric “revenue per seat mile”. With keeping change fees off the table and encouraging passengers to book cheaper flights and standby to an earlier flight, are they really improving their revenue per seat mile? To me, it sounds like a resounding no, and also a great “travel hack” for travelers on a budget, at the cost of an employee benefit which they are usually paid less in salary to have.

  8. Thanks for your response, Gary. The “perks” I had in mind, stemming from your “influencer” status as (for me) the top-rated consumer-oriented voice on modern airline travel, is that your calls to airline brass are likely to be received and answered in quite a different and more expedited fashion than mine would be as someone of unknown pedigree (despite never hiding behind anonymity) and zero “influencer” status. So my concern was that you not pull your punches for fear of being put on some kind of management enemies’ list. Perhaps you can enlighten me on the next point, but I assume that since one can’t fly anonymously any more, and certainly can’t build up frequent-flyer miles using an alias for other than an alias account, when you book and/or show up for a flight, your identity is well known. This may lead to special treatment of which even you are unaware — so long as your remain considered a friend by management. Most respectable restaurant, music, and drama critics go to great lengths through fake identities and disguises to conceal themselves from the dining or performance venues they visit in preparation of a review. That, of course, is not possible for an airline critic. So what the military calls “command influence” poses a standing problem of bias in your reviews, because higher-ups can influence the very situation you seek neutrally to review, even without your knowing of their intervention. Sincerely, John

  9. @John B Oakley – “So my concern was that you not pull your punches for fear of being put on some kind of management enemies’ list. ”

    If there’s anyone in this space who doesn’t pull their punches it’s probably me. And I’ve been on more than one management enemies list. Top brass have removed me from event invitations (no big deal) and one airline even once had me investigated.

    In terms of special treatment, gosh, I’ve certainly never received it from an airline. And I’ll tell you a story. Even when a hotel chain might want to do that, the execution doesn’t work. One chain once sent around a list of upcoming influencer stays at one of their brands, intending to try to deliver an elevated experience. One of my stays was on the list, which I found out because the chain accidentally sent it to… one of the influencers on the list by mistake. That stay? My room wasn’t ready at check-in, I wasn’t upgraded, literally nothing elevated about it.

    With as often as I have horrible flights and stays? Golly.

    I’m not saying it could never happen! But it’s just as likely that a travel provider would want to poison my coffee as give me something special 🙂 I do receive tons of perks, that are available to others in the same circumstance, e.g. benefits of the loyalty program.

    And when I have received something of value from a program or travel company (e.g. I joined major media on a preview flight of United’s Boeing 777-300ER when they first took it, not something I could have purchased myself and I wanted to see the first plane with Polaris business class seats) I make a donation to charity of equivalent value.

    I’ve written more about the issues involved

  10. On terms 9f special treatment aren’t you a Concierge Key? Still?
    You’re so far disconnected from reality of an airline employee, the lowest paid , most abused and loss of benefits job that exists.

    The only reason you get bad service on an airline is everyone from gate agent to FA knows you and thinks you’re horrible.

  11. Dear Gary, Thanks so much for taking my comments seriously and for your detailed reply. I appreciate your ethical sensitivity. In retrospect, would you agree that your take on the viral FA resignation letter was perhaps a smidge too harsh? John

  12. I will say this post has been shared nearly 5000x oin the flight attendant community on fb just that I know of. When the volume of engagement reaches that level, you have to admit, there is a structural deficiency in commercial US airlines that are making their employees miserable. I’m sure workers from many industries feel similarly. Our system is broken when good people who want to work are abused by their employer to the point of quitting.

  13. To those of you who provided clarification above explaining why the fee free revenue standby is such a huge issue ~ thank you.

    It is almost impossible to use flight benefits as an airline employee since this has been implemented. Many, if not all airline employees work for the airlines specifically FOR the benefit of travel. There are not the same number of flights as were operating pre COVID, many schedules are still reduced and more passengers than ever are traveling. These are FACTS.

    As for the snarky “if true” comment regarding the suicide ~ suicide rates are up EXPONENTIALLY among flight attendants in the last :3-4 years. So much so that some airlines are offering. therapy at no cost to flight attendants and even real time chat therapy if help is needed immediately. Also peer support hotlines have been put in place that are available 24 hours a day. It can be quite challenging to work in a career where so much of the general public carry so much animosity for a work group as a whole, not to mention diminishing benefits in a career that one hoped would be lifelong. . Please *do not* underestimate the stress and isolation the flight attendant job carries and please in the future if you decide to comment on someone committing suicide, try using some tact.

  14. Since a few people have brought up the federal FMLA – how many are aware that the law does not cover care of ALL immediate family members? The law makes clear (and this has been upheld in court) that you can take job-protected leave from work only to care for parents, spouses and children. The care of your elder or younger siblings (and grandparents) is not covered. Expect to start reading for about this exclusion in the next few years.

  15. Since a few people have brought up the federal FMLA – how many are aware that the law does not cover care of ALL immediate family members? The law makes clear (and this has been upheld in court) that you can take job-protected leave from work only to care for parents, spouses and children. The care of your elder or younger siblings (and grandparents) is not covered. Expect to start reading more about this exclusion in the next few years.
    (Gary – caught a typo in the last line)

  16. This article is very true and accurate but contains alot of whining. The DCA base for AA has some of the most senior FA’s including Bette Nash who is afraid ro retire after 6 decades. All of her friend from the Trump Shuttle make up most of the base and all have 50 plus years. AA made Bette a PR celebrity (she loves the perks and attention), used it to their advantage and the younger generation became resentful of her. They bid the best schedules, vacation, some sell their duty days for money, and some fly a few days to keep the medical benefits.

    Working as a airline crewmembers has extreme highs and lows and can be very lonely being away from family and friends. In the old days, a new hire could remain at the junior base without being furloughed or transfered. Most do not want to live where they are based either due to expense, family or dislike. They choose to commute and often have to live in commuter pads.

    Flight loads use to remain steady and a commuter could remained assured they could get on a flight with empty seats. The airlines rapid sell empty seats on the internet and overnight a flight will fill up and the commuter cannot get on the flight or ro their base in time for sign in. The airlines does not have any responsibility to the crew member for commuting.

    Flight Attendants make dirt pay the first 10 years. The new hire pay is about 20-25k the first year. AA has changed radically towards crew members the last 5-10 years. The once top notch flight training for pilots has turned into a cost cutting decisions by mon pilots. The female director of training was recently shown the door for sexual harassment (put out for a passing grade). Crewmembers are sent on trips without hotels or van service scheduled in advance. AA expects crewmembers to pick up the slack and for pilots to learn additional training on their days off at home (with no pay).

  17. Some parts of this article is laughable,. Awwwww!!! poor her. We get treated much worse at the regional airline that American Airlines owns. I cant mention the name because of fear of being fired.

  18. Tripp mentioned “what our union negotiated is what we get”. The contracts negotiated were thrown out in convenient bankruptcies. What you het our the forced contracts afterwards and a company who pretens ro negotiate a new contract.

    Nonreving is viewed as a privilege and not a benefit. It is almost impossible to get on a flight anywhere as an airline employee unless your on the jumpseat. Delta clears the list by seniority while AA is time of check in. A airline requied dress use to be dresses and business suits with tie.
    A commuter cannot afford a paid ticket for every trip worked.

  19. Wow Gary. You are a A**h***. Clearly you take mgmts side every chance you get so you can score some freebies. Shame on you!!!

  20. Let’s be clear I receive no freebies from management – other than things available to any other similarly-situated customer. (When I do take something of value, I make an offsetting charitable donation.)

  21. Choices choices . The life style is not for everyone . I love my job and get to meet amazing people on every trip ! Some people I would vote “ off the game show” but . No one is taking my joy away ! Love my flexibility and the company that pays me every two weeks !

  22. When an airline doesn’t value their customers, why would one expect that they would value their employees?? And I agree with this flight attendant- the fact that they would hire employees and expect them to attend non-compensated training was, in fact, a big red flag. I’ll burn through my hugely devalued miles remaining and won’t expect to fly AA much, if at all.
    The airlines in the US need regulation. What we didn’t need was ole Ronnie Reagan.

  23. You have no idea what you are talking about regarding revenue standbys ! Write what you think know -you are clueless

  24. Gary Leff might be an expert in Points and Miles but is obviously very ignorance about a job in an industry that he never worked for. He thinks that free standby for revenue passengers does not affect employees because the number of passengers remains the same. Yeah, you try taking a 7am flight that all of a sudden is full because of confirmed standbys and have to wait 12 hours at the airport for the next flight and then miss your connection because that flight arrives too late. The free confirmed standby seriously affects flight benefits because load numbers are not reliable anymore. Overall Leff shows very little compassion and understanding, not surprising from someone as entitled as he is. Perhaps if he had a real job he would understand better.
    Btw this letter could have been written by a FA of any airline.

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