Un-American Airlines

2 May

American Airlines has been battling.  No, not to maintain profits or to keep terrorists off of their planes.  They’ve been fighting their own employees, in particular their skycaps in Boston.  It is a tempest that has been stewing for three years now.  The corporate giant has taken on manual laborers and lost–first in court and now in dignity. 

In 2005, American Airlines imposed a $2.00 a bag fee on luggage handled curbside by skycaps.  Many of the airline’s customers assumed that this service charge went to the skycaps, who were tipped for their baggage-handling services.  The truth, however, was that the fee went into the airline’s pockets.  The result was plummeting incomes for skycaps, who earned the majority of their pay through tips.  The skycaps took American to federal Court to regain lost tips.  They won and nine Boston skycaps were awarded a total settlement of $325, 000.  Things went back to normal–briefly.

A month after losing in Court, American has attacked again.  They have now prohibited skycaps from taking tips.  To cover the difference in lost tips, AA raised their skycaps’ hourly rates from $5.15 to $12-$15 dollars an hour.  The skycaps’ incomes are going to shrink again, as that ten dollar raise would likely cover the tips on just five bags an hour.  Of course, American is still pocketing the $2 dollar service charge. 

Apparently, American would rather pay out an extra $10 an hour per skycap than see their employees make more money through tips.  And this tip-ban is only in effect at Boston’s Logan, the home of the skycaps who sued the Airline.  This exposes American’s new policy as a childish punishment or petty revenge, take your pick.  It is not the result of a seriously considered business model.  It looks like American will be heading to court again to take another beating.

One might argue that American Airlines is a business and can do whatever they want in the free market.  Unfortunately, as American recently found out in court, there are laws that regulate working conditions.  The market is not exactly free, either.   Let’s not forget that the Airline Industry is heavily subsidized by the American government, including an enormous post 9/11 bailout.  The Hangover would prefer that our tax dollars are not used to fund a loathsome enterprise like American.  But if the citizens of this country are going to fund such a corporation, shouldn’t we expect it to act within some ethical limits?  Or at least to not stomp and flail like a petulant eight year-old? 

One can take action, however.  Fly Jet Blue, Southwest, US Air, or any airline that treats its employees better than American.   The Hangover can only assume that would be every other airline. 

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5 Responses to “Un-American Airlines”

  1. Chilly Nate May 4, 2008 at 7:17 am #

    Whenever my family travels via airline to far and exotic places (Disney World) we stick to an airport ritual that is fool proof. We pull up to the departures curb side, flag the first skycap, float him or her a $20 bill and watch as our luggage is checked and our seats are assigned, never stepping foot inside the terminal. We’re happy, and the skycap is happy and the airline is happy. Of course we never fly American Airlines. It’s amazing what a tip will do for good service. Just ask THO.

  2. Frank57 May 5, 2008 at 11:25 pm #

    I have no connection to AA, the skycaps, or Logan Airport. Yet when I read about the “no tipping” policy, it struck a nerve and really infuriated me. Those guys work hard, are usually pleasant, and they deserve a few extra bucks for their effort. How dare they deny me the privilege of acknowledging that? So I wrote to AA last week in protest, and got this very legalistic and repulsive reply today:

    “Since we are in the process of appealing the verdict and
    seeking a new trial, a process that could take some time, we felt immediate changes were necessary to ensure we are in full compliance with Massachusetts law. The best way to ensure that, we feel, is to prohibit tipping for curbside baggage check-in (or any other assistance with checked bags at Logan) and not be covered by the complex Massachusetts tips law, which was recently amended further by the Massachusetts Legislature.

    “In addition, our third-party vendor for curbside check in (G2 Services) has advised us they will raise hourly pay rates for skycaps to be in full compliance with federal wage laws. The majority of Boston skycaps are employees of G2, not American Airlines.”

    Translation: Rather than comply with the court and fork over a a few dollars, we would rather screw the skycaps and deny them the right to earn a living wage. Our company’s survival is more important than treating people decently. Oh, and it limits the damage from losing the appeal, doesn’t it?

    This is an incredibly vile way to treat people. I replied to AA that while we all have to live within the law, we also have a higher duty to treat their people with respect. So until they change how they treat skycaps, I will never do business with them anymore.

    What other leverage do we have to get companies like these to change their ways?

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  1. skycaps left | Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C. - December 12, 2014

    […] Un-American Airlines The Hangover | May, 2008 […]

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