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United Flight Attendants Called To Self-Report Bad Service Experiences

The Association of Flight Attendants is calling on its members to report incidences of their own poor customer service to aid its negotiations with United over staffing levels

by Fergus Cole

March 29, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of United Airlines

Amid concerns about declining levels of customer service, flight attendants working for United Airlines have been urged to report themselves for offering poor service to passengers.

However, this call to action has not been made by senior management at the airline but by a workers union representing its flight attendants.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) sent a memo to its United Airlines members last week, urging them to self-report any occurrences where passengers felt ‘frustrated or dissatisfied’ with their level of service.

According to the union, the reason for this is not to single out individual flight attendants for poor performance but rather to highlight staffing issues within the company in an attempt to encourage the airline to reverse recent staff cuts. The union is currently holding negotiations with United’s management over staff contracts.

“With the recent increased workload onboard our aircraft, we know that reducing staffing levels or eliminating certain positions, can result in longer wait times for passengers to receive their meals, drinks, and other services,” said the union in its memo.

In 2018, United announced plans to cut staffing levels by one business class cabin attendant per international flight while also transferring the task of preparing inflight meals from cabin crew to ground staff. The airline claimed that these changes were based on ‘customer feedback’ and would improve the carrier’s overall efficiency.

Photo: Courtesy of United Airlines

Further cuts to onboard service levels were made during the pandemic. While some elements have returned or soon will be, the AFA-CWA wants United’s management to reverse its previous decision on staffing cuts.

“When fewer crew members are available to handle emergencies or other safety-related incidents, the response time to such incidents may be slower, potentially putting the safety of passengers and crew at risk,” said the union.

“In addition, changes to staffing and service may also impact crew fatigue levels, which can negatively impact safety. For example, longer duty periods and shorter rest periods can lead to increased fatigue, which can impair crew members’ ability to respond to safety-related situations.”

Providing a reason for urging its members to report their poor customer service, the union added: “It is important for crew members to provide detailed, specific information on how the staffing and recent increased service changes have adversely impacted passenger safety and service. This can help our union assess the impact of the changes and take appropriate action to address with the company any safety or service concerns.”

The union claims it will use its members’ self-reports of poor service to highlight areas within the company’s operations that could be improved in its negotiations with the airline. It is hoped this would convince senior management to reverse staffing cuts and increase onboard staffing levels.