United and its union of flight attendants is investigating some shady dealings amongst a select set of cabin crew. The flight attendants involved have been reportedly selling trips on United’s best flights, including lucrative and popular long-hauls to destinations like Sydney, Tokyo, and London.
Flight attendants enjoy working these longer flights since they are paid more within a shorter period of time, and it includes layovers in more prime spots — and often for a longer amount of time. According to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA),
Flight Attendants have now been provided notice by management that this behavior is prohibited. If you are found to be participating in these actions, that is parking, buying, brokering or selling pairings or sharing your password, you are subject to investigation and action by management, up to and including discharge.
While trading trips is allowed, it is usually done just for unforeseen circumstances. United said it had searched social media and found that flight attendants were using codewords like “hugs,” “kisses,” “candy canes,” and “expressions of appreciation” as phrases to indicate they were selling their trips. These words can be misconstrued for something else too. 😉
In the U.S., crews bid for trips based on seniority so flight attendants who have worked the longest for the airline usually secure the best trips.
In my experience, these older flight attendants sometimes don’t offer good service since they know they’ll get paid for the best trips and “phone it in.” This is certainly not always the case, but is prevalent enough that it’s noticeable when flying internationally on a U.S. airline.
While not a reflection of all flight attendants, this latest discovery by United creates an even stronger impression of bad apples amongst the most senior flight crews. The solution? Let’s get rid of the seniority requirement altogether for bidding on flights — and create a more fair metric for evaluating cabin crew.
In the meantime, United will be investigating these flight attendants for fraud.