Thursday, September 11, 2014

American's Retirees Just Lost Their Place in the Free-Flight Pecking Order

(Updates with American Airlines declining to comment.)
More than two dozen retired American Airlines (AAL) flight attendants are suing their former employer over who gets to fly in empty seats.

A change made Wednesday to American’s employee travel benefits puts retirees behind current workers and their dependents for claims to vacant spots. The previous policy gave the same priority to current and former employees. American also reduced the number of free, one-way “buddy passes” given to retirees each year, from two dozen to eight; current workers receive 16 per year.
The dispute highlights one of the many complex employee issues involved in merging two large airlines.

The travel changes have enraged American’s former attendants, who have staged protests at the airline’s Texas headquarters, upbraided Chief Executive Doug Parker in June at the airline’s shareholder meeting, and barraged executives with e-mailed appeals to reverse the policy. Employees absorbed from the former US Airways have likewise been displeased that the merged airline eliminated seniority in boarding priority for workers, adopting American’s policy of first-come, first-seated.

American declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The new American, which was formed in December, has about 700,000 people who fly for free as part of its “non-revenue travel” program. That group includes about 110,000 employees as well as more than 500,000 spouses, dependents, relatives, and friends. Even foreign-exchange students living with an American employee can take advantage of free flights.
Bachman is an associate editor for

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