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Travel: American Airlines confirms some onboard service cuts

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American Airlines has confirmed to The Points Guy that there will be onboard service reductions after complaints from flight attendants.

The airline has been under pressure from the flight attendants union for some time to reduce service on planes including meal and beverage services.

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The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) had been demanding reductions in main cabin beverage service on both international and domestic flights and wanted to be able to serve all courses of a meal at the same time in Flagship First. According to published reports, a second beverage service on longer flights will be ended.

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Why? The union says it reduces the amount of time they are interacting with passengers, and will lessen their exposure to passengers without masks on during meals.

Main cabin meal on an American Airlines transcon flight from San Francisco to New York. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Main cabin meal on an American Airlines transcon flight from San Francisco to New York. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Here’s what the union demanded in a memo last week, “APFA proposals include serving entreés with salad/soup/appetizers in premium cabins when possible and reducing main cabin beverage services on domestic and IPD flights. We have asked that these reductions in service be implemented immediately.”

Related: American isn’t retiring Flagship First for now

American Airlines confirmed it was instituting changes to onboard service, though it didn’t say exactly what was changing:

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“Together with APFA, we have decided to temporarily modify some onboard service to limit customer touchpoints. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to assess ways to thoughtfully return the onboard dining services customers are asking for while keeping safety front and center. We appreciate the APFA’s collaboration as we continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic. Customers traveling with us can check www.aa.com for current service expectations.”

“Passengers are going to look at American’s actions as just another service cutback,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst from Atmosphere Research, “If APFA had made this request in late November or early December when omicron first emerged I would be far more sympathetic … It’s going to put flight attendants in a real bad position. Passengers are going to be unhappy.”

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Business class meal service on AA flight 76 JFK to SFO. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Business class meal service on AA flight 76 JFK to SFO. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Harteveldt said that the move by AA is a bit contradictory since the airlines have “told us that air quality on commercial planes is among the cleanest and safest of any enclosed space including some hospital operating rooms.”

Related: More masks, less glasses – a review of AA Flagship First JFK to LAX

That along with the federal mask mandate and the well-above-average vaccination and booster rates amongst the traveling public means it’s supposedly safe on airplanes, “When you add these together, the airplane cabin is one of the safest places from a health standpoint and so the APFA’s request is one that unfortunately rings hollow to me.”

“It doesn’t help that American has a repuation for taking service away and not restoring it,” Harteveldt concluded.

No word from AA on how long “temporarily” might last.

Featured image of an American Airlines plane landing at Sint Maarten Airport (SXM) in January of 2017 by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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