Here’s the ‘Disappointing’ and ‘Prohibited’ Way Some American Airlines Flight Attendants Make Extra Money

This is a story about American Airlines, flight attendants, simple economy, and a 21st century trend that many of us share: finding side struggles and trying to make a little extra money.

It’s also about “prohibited” practices, the risk of being fired for pushing things too far, and the law of unintended consequences.

Let’s start with the flight attendants and the scheme some of them came up with, according to both American Airlines and their own union.

In short, some top flight attendants have come up with a way to use their tenure to their financial advantage.

It’s very simple, actually. Each month, flight attendants provide the routes they want to travel for the airline. Their applications are granted, largely on the basis of seniority.

Thus, the longer-serving flight attendants get the best tracks. By “best” we mean both the most interesting and the most unusual – think longer, international flights to South America or Asia, rather than an overnight stay in Omaha (no offense to Omaha readers) – but also the most financially advantageous.

So, according to both the airline and the union, top flight attendants in some cities began bidding on the most coveted flights even when they had no intention of flying.

Then, they would turn around and sell those winning bids to more junior hostesses.

This is not the first time this practice has appeared. In 2018, American Airlines reprimanded flight attendants who were selling their packages — and reportedly made an average of $200 per flight.

But in the wake of the pandemic, and the fact that there are now fewer desirable flights, it has become very easy for airlines to follow this practice. Therefore, both American Airlines and the union issued stern warnings.

“The management has made it clear that this illegal flight activity is prohibited,” the union warned its members this week, according to the flight attendant website, paddle your canoe. “If you trade or drop flights outside the intended means of our scheduling systems, you will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.”

On Friday, the same airline entered, according to View from the wing:

While it is disappointing that some of your co-workers choose to manipulate our systems for personal gain, we also know that the vast majority of you play by the rules.

Simply put, if you are found to be abusing our systems, the consequences are likely to be the termination of your career.

I guess it wasn’t the junior flight attendants who complained, but rather the ones who complained It is enough Seniority that they were able to bid on those more desirable flights, but for the fact that their older colleagues were bidding on them just to sell them.

Regardless, it seems likely that the game will be over, with American Airlines specifically putting jobs on the line. And I think there are three important tips for business leaders in any industry:

  • First, be on the lookout for groups, and ways in which some employees may benefit from others.
  • Next, be wary of creating a market by mistake. The entire reason this airline situation exists is due to what appears to be an unintended consequence of perks designed to protect and reward seniority.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to drop the hammer when you decide that some team members are playing with the system, especially at the expense of their colleagues.

I have contacted American Airlines for comment, but have not received a response. However, this complete entrepreneurial adventure only enhances what I explain in my free e-book, Business Class: 12 Commanding Bases of American Airlines, which is this if you She was choosing one American industry that people at other companies should follow and learn from, and it’s the aviation industry.

Think about it: a giant commodity industry in which all the big players are publicly traded and closely followed by analysts and journalists, and in which they are likely to face most of the same problems as your business.

They only do it on a bigger stage, and with more people watching – sometimes, it seems, even including their own staff.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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So, according to both the airline and the union, senior flight attendants in some cities started bidding on the most desirable trips even when they had no intention of flying them.

n

Then, they'd turn around and sell those winning bids to more junior flight attendants.

n

It's not the first time this practice has come to light. In 2018, American Airlines chided flight attendants who were selling their bids -- and reportedly making an average of $200 for each flight.

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But, in the wake of the pandemic, and the fact that there are now fewer coveted flights, it apparently became a lot easier for the airlines to track the practice. So, both American Airlines and the union have issued stern warnings.

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"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 are trading or dropping trips outside of the intended means of our scheduling systems, you will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination."

n

On Friday, the airline itself chimed in, according to View From the Wing:

n

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.

n

...

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Simply put, if it's proven you're abusing our systems, the consequences would most likely be career-ending.

n

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.

n

Regardless, it would seem that the game is likely up, with American Airlines specifically putting jobs on the line. And, I think there are three big takeaways for business leaders in any industry:

n

    t

  • First, be on the lookout for cliques, and the ways that some employees might be taking advantage of others.
  • t

  • Next, be wary of accidentally creating a marketplace. The whole reason this situation seems to exist at the airline is because of what seems to be the unintended consequence of perks designed to protect and reward seniority.
  • t

  • Finally, don't be afraid to drop the hammer when you determine that some team members are gaming the system, especially to the detriment of their colleagues.

n

I reached out to American Airlines for comment, but haven't heard anything back. Still, this whole entrepreneurial escapade only reinforces what I explain in my free ebook, Flying Business Class: 12 Rules for Leaders From the U.S. Airlines, which is that if you were to pick one U.S. industry that people in others businesses should follow and learn from, it's the airline industry.

n

Think about it: a giant, commodity industry in which all the big players are publicly traded and followed closely by analysts and journalists, and in which they face most of the same issues your business likely faces.

n

They just do it on a larger stage, and with more people watching -- sometimes, apparently, even including their own employees.

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