American Airways Flight Attendants React to SFO Base Closure

  • American Airways is closing its San Francisco base, probably displacing 400 flight attendants. 
  • Two-thirds have labored for the airline for 13 years or extra, in accordance with union calculations.
  • 10 flight attendants instructed Insider a myriad of things make it tough to depart the Bay Space.

The mass electronic mail hit some flight attendants’ inboxes mid-flight. 

“At the moment it is with nice remorse that I let you understand about our resolution to shut the SFO flight attendant base,” American Airways govt Brady Byrnes mentioned within the September memo obtained by Insider.

In closing its San Francisco base, citing financial elements and shifting buyer demand, American offered 400 flight attendants with a alternative that many mentioned felt unattainable to make: depart the airline or depart the state. 

The bottom is dwelling to a few of the provider’s most senior flight attendants, two-thirds of whom have been on the airline for 13 years or extra, in accordance with the union representing American Airways flight attendants. By January 31, they have to choose an airport from a listing of the airline’s hubs outdoors of California to work out of. For many who cannot or will not, the one choices are to retire early (if eligible) or resign, the union instructed Insider.

In interviews, 10 SFO-based flight attendants instructed Insider {that a} myriad of things make it tough to depart the Bay Space. (Some have requested to stay nameless in concern of shedding their jobs, however Insider verified their identities and employment.)  Some are single mothers, some are battling well being points, some have youngsters with particular wants. Others have divorced spouses with joint custody of their youngsters, aged dad and mom, or companions who cannot uproot their careers.

“That is dwelling,” mentioned Marcia Brown, a flight attendant who has been based mostly in San Francisco for 38 years.

American Airline flight attendants Louis Rangel and Uma Arunachalam / American airlines planes are seen at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Flight attendant Louis Rangel (left) began working for American in 1988 and has lived within the Bay Space his total life. His two daughters are enrolled in native colleges there.

Courtesty of Uma Arunachalam (left) / Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Company by way of Getty Photographs (proper)

An American Airways spokesperson mentioned it determined to now not have flight attendants based mostly in San Francisco based mostly on logistical elements together with the airline’s altering dimension, shifting buyer demand, and fleet adjustments.

“As we have a look at the way forward for our community, we count on that San Francisco will preserve the identical degree of flying it does at the moment, however there aren’t any plans to develop San Francisco and no future flying prospects based mostly on our present community technique,” they mentioned.

Most SFO-based routes rank poorly for profitability in comparison with different routes throughout American’s community, in accordance with aviation analytics agency Cirium. This yr, the provider minimize the quantity of flights out of San Francisco by roughly one-third, Cirium instructed Insider.  

In June, the Supreme Courtroom dominated {that a} state legislation requiring staff get a break each few hours does in truth apply to California-based airline staff. 

Some SFO-based flight attendants suspect they do not have the choice to switch to Los Angeles  — a bigger American hub — as a result of the airline might exit California altogether. 

American would have a “good enterprise motive” to take action, John Masslon, a senior litigator on the Washington Authorized Basis, instructed Insider, particularly when contemplating the airline’s $37 billion debt. 

“You may need conditions the place the aircraft is unable to take off due to having to attend for a relaxation or meal break,” he mentioned. “Planes shall be unable to land and it’ll have a cascading impact on delayed flights and mess up your complete system.”

A bitter ending 

SFO-based flight attendant Cynthia Duarte and her husband, who is battling brain cancer.

SFO-based flight attendant Cynthia Duarte and her husband, who’s battling mind most cancers.

Courtest of Cynthia Duarte

At 64-years-old, Brown plans to retire early, regardless of eager to proceed working. 

“It is hurtful that I’ve given them 38 years of my life and that is how I am going out,” she mentioned. “I hate leaving feeling offended and bitter. I wished to depart feeling unhappy as a result of it has been an amazing profession.”

Flight attendants who cannot retire early or transfer should commute, which within the airline enterprise means flying standby to get to and from their new base. 

The closest bases to SFO are Phoenix and Dallas, 2-hour and three.5-hour flights respectively, and never all 400 of the affected flight attendants will obtain their first alternative. Much less-senior staff could also be caught commuting throughout the nation, including dozens of unpaid hours to their schedules. 

Cynthia Duarte, a 38-year veteran, worries that the additional time she’d need to spend commuting would make it unattainable to look after her husband, who has terminal mind most cancers.

“Proper now I am solely gone for at some point, two occasions every week and he can barely deal with that. You add a three-hour commute on to that and my time away triples,” Duarte mentioned. “I by no means thought at our age we might be coping with an sickness that makes each second depend. We do not know what number of we’ve got left.”

A lot of her colleagues are in equally robust conditions. 

A single mother and flight attendant of over 20 years does not understand how she’d commute and safe further childcare for her younger youngster, who wants an insulin pump modified each three days. A 30-year veteran battling a life-threatening sickness mentioned she will be able to’t afford to lose the corporate’s medical health insurance, so she plans on flying the three hours to Dallas and again for every shift. 

Anthony Cataldo, a flight attendant of 33 years, mentioned he plans on commuting to American’s New York Metropolis base— a 5.5-hour flight for which he’ll compete with different flight attendants for a standby seat. He estimates commuting will value him as much as $700 a month between lodge rooms, which are not supplied by the corporate in a state of affairs like this, and parking. 

If a flight attendant misses a shift resulting from a scarcity of standby area, solely three missed shifts per yr are allowed. After that, every missed commuter shift leads to two attendance “factors.” Workers with 11 factors are topic to termination, in accordance with American’s attendance coverage. 

One flight attendant, a single mom who has labored for American for over 20 years, mentioned she’s searching for a brand new job to keep away from needing to maneuver or commute out-of-state. “I’ve nobody anyplace else. That is the place my household is. That is the place my help system is.”

A dream denied

Flight attendant Anthony Cataldo and his husband Martin Ortiz-Cataldo alongside their mothers, whom they both take care of.

Anthony Cataldo manages a rental unit in San Francisco. His husband works at a neighborhood college and their growing older moms additionally stay within the Bay Space, he mentioned, making it “principally unattainable for us to stand up and depart.”

Courtesy of Anthony Cataldo

In an business the place seniority determines scheduling and pay, yearly brings flight attendants nearer to working worldwide flights, prime wages of $68.25 per hour, and extra schedule flexibility and customization. For a lot of, it is an finish objective that may make the low beginning pay, night time shifts, and grueling reserve hours all price it.

The a long time of expertise with the objective of reaching that life-style at the moment are successfully misplaced, one flight attendant instructed Insider.

“I put in over 20 years, and now they’re telling me that I could not be capable of put in the remainder of my years,” she mentioned. “My plan was to retire at American.”

In a city corridor assembly on September 27, firm representatives instructed SFO-based flight attendants that after a number of calculations, the provider decided that working a base out of San Francisco was merely not financially viable, in accordance with an audio recording shared with Insider by a verified supply.

Some staff expressed confusion on why they should depart San Francisco if the provider will nonetheless must workers SFO flights. American particularly expressed plans to maintain flights on the identical degree as at the moment, which means the airline should fly in flight attendants based mostly at different airports. 

Contemplating the airline additionally mentioned it should proceed to rent new flight attendants, a number of crew members mentioned it feels as if the airline needs to exchange its veteran workers with new staff who’re paid a lot much less. 

“We’ve a 17-year-old daughter who’s graduating highschool this yr, and an 11-year-old daughter. It does not make sense for me to ask my household to maneuver,” Louis Rangel, who began working for American in 1988 and grew up within the Bay space, mentioned. 

“I do not know methods to begin over,” he continued. “It is arduous for many people, to assume that somebody you’ve got been devoted to for 30 plus years, after which simply, nope, that is it: Take it or depart it.” 

Are you a flight attendant? Bought a narrative or tip to share? E mail this reporter at [email protected] from a non-work handle