American Airlines flight attendants protested Tuesday at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the carrier’s moves to reassign 284 Phoenix-based flight attendants to work schedules based at other airports far from Phoenix.
“American Airlines wants to originate our flights in other places,” said Alana Billingsley, a Phoenix-based council representative for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “They have told us it makes more sense to fly trips that are based somewhere else. They are uprooting our lives,” she said.
Phoenix, an American hub, will have about 1,135 flight attendants following 184 furloughs due to the coronavirus crisis. American Airlines has about 18,000 flight attendants after laying off 8,100 due to the coronavirus crisis.
Late Tuesday morning, the Phoenix demonstration, staged outside Terminal Four, included about two dozen demonstrators as well as a motorcade that was circling the airport. A second demonstration is scheduled for Wednesday.
The airport is crowded with holiday travelers, who are nearly all wearing masks, Billingsley said.
The base’s 284 most junior flight attendants will “have to work out of whatever base they decide to put us in [even though] the preference is to stay,” she said. “A lot of flight attendants here started with America West and never thought they would be part of a large airline.”
APFA said flight attendants hired after April 2004, when America West was still operating, will be displaced.
American has hubs at airports throughout the country, including Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. To start a work schedule of a few days at a distant airport, flight attendants would have to find open seats to fly to the assigned bases. The assignments are scheduled to begin Jan. 31.
The plan was implemented as part of a 2019 merger integration deal between American and flight attendants representing American and US Airways AAL +9.3%. America West had been absorbed into US Airways.
American spokesman Curtis Blessing said in an email, “In Feb. 2019, American Airlines announced a plan to ensure we have the right number of flight attendants based in the right locations to run the most efficient operation.
“As such, we expected to reduce our PHX base by one-third (approximately 700 flight attendants) through voluntary transfers and by not filling vacancies created by attrition and transfers at PHX,” he said. “However, after 18-months, the PHX flight attendant base currently has an overage of 284.
“Through Dec. 3, 2020, the final round of voluntary transfers from the PHX flight attendant base will be accepted. After this date, American will begin the difficult process of transferring the required number of flight attendants from the base to address the overage.
“We know how important the city where our flight attendants live is to their quality of life and future plans, and this wasn’t an easy decision to make.” Blessing said. “However, in light of the significant impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our company and our industry, the need to run the most efficient operation possible is critically important.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes