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.