Despite there only being 11 people on a Tuesday, March 24 flight, the company refused to allow them to adhere to the social-distancing measure of sitting 6-feet apart, instead forcing them all into the last three rows, Mother Jones reports.
“The reasoning behind it is, well, they bought basic economy fares, so we can’t put them further up in the cabin, because that would be an upgrade,” said one of flight attendants, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from her employer.
Despite a lack of protocol allowing them to do so, flight attendants “took it upon ourselves to spread them out,” she says.
That same day, American — the world’s largest airline in terms of both passenger number and fleet size — did finally issue a new “relaxed seating” policy in response to the pandemic. It allows gate agents to “reassign seats to create more space between customers” and for passengers to “move to another seat within their ticketed cabin subject to availability,” adding that 50% of standard middle seats and every seat bordering jump seats should be left empty.
The reactionary measures may not have been sufficient, however, as the company continued to enforce pricing tiers on nearly empty flights, Mother Jones reports.
After the new protocols were put into place, the same flight attendant says they were on another flight where the few passengers were tightly confined within their class tier. All 15 passengers were again crammed into the plane’s last rows, disallowed from moving ahead of the exit row, as that would constitute an upgrade.
American Airlines did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
In addition to refusing to prioritize passenger safety over pricing tiers, even on near-empty flights, the airline allegedly hasn’t given attendants hand sanitizer — although it does provide sanitizing towelettes. It also only began allowing attendants to wear face masks in the final week of March — and then, only if they were in a neutral color.
“It’s insulting,” a flight attendant told Mother Jones. “Let’s suppose I do go on Amazon and find a mask, but it’s in purple. Well, now you don’t want me to wear it because it’s purple and it’s not beige?”
On March 23, Philadelphia-based American Airlines flight attendant Paul Frishkorn, 65, died of COVID-19 complications. In the following week, the airline sharply reduced meal and snack service and suspended 60 to 80 percent of its domestic flights for April and May.
Flight attendants say much more is necessary, and the changes come too late.
“For my own mental health, I’ve just been resolved that I’m exposed and I run a very high risk of contracting it,” one American Airlines attendant told Mother Jones.