American Airlines says it will need to move more than 700 Phoenix-based flight attendants to other hub airports now that it has integrated the systems used to manage flight-attendant scheduling after the airline's merger with US Airways.
The airlines merged in 2013, but the flight-attendant management systems did not. The two systems could not intermingle, and flight attendants could only be assigned to planes associated with their respective legacy airlines. Former US Airways flight attendants could only serve on US Airways aircraft, and American Airlines flight attendants could not serve on an aircraft that had belonged to US Airways.
If American moved a US Airways plane to Los Angeles, it would need to staff that aircraft with former US Airways crews from Phoenix, not American Airlines crews at LAX.
"That's not particularly efficient," said Chuck Schubert, American Airlines vice president of crew operations and performance.
The lack of integration between the two systems also restricted flight attendants from applying for transfers to other hubs.
Now that the systems are fully integrated, the airline has greater flexibility but also a staffing imbalance. LAX and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport each needs 700 more flight attendants, while Phoenix needs 700 fewer. With 13 airports where American can base flight attendants, it can deploy flight crews more efficiently if some employees are transferred out of Phoenix.
Wednesday morning, the airline notified Phoenix-based flight attendants to watch vacancies at other bases and consider opportunities to transfer. The airline hopes to naturally reduce the number of Phoenix staff over the next few years through attrition and transfers.
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American reaffirms commitment to Phoenix
American said the move would not result in fewer jobs company-wide as it anticipates needing to hire several hundred flight attendants this year. It also anticipates no changes in the number of flights serving Phoenix.
"What this means for our levels of flying in Phoenix in terms of our commitment to Phoenix as a vibrant hub in the American Airlines system is unchanged," Schubert said.
Vasu Raja, the airline's vice president of network and schedule planning, echoed Schubert in an emailed statement: “We remain committed to keeping the Valley of the Sun connected to the world. We recognize the unique value of Phoenix as a hub for American Airlines. More than 250 daily flights are important to our team members, customers and our business. We are here to stay."
The news comes just a week after American announced it was expanding its soon-to-launch daily service to London's Heathrow Airport from seasonal to year round.
In an emailed statement, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez pointed to that expansion as proof that American's commitment is stronger than ever, with the airline serving 90 destinations from Phoenix. Rodriguez said prior to the merger, American and US Airways together served 77 destinations.
"As American completes a final phase of forming the world’s largest airline, we are pleased that the company has announced that no Phoenix-based flight attendants will lose their jobs or be forced to relocate," Rodriguez said.
Schubert said the situation is similar to when American Airlines integrated its pilots system in the fall of 2016 and needed to adjust staff accordingly.
Still, the news is likely to be concerning to the city of Phoenix, which stands to lose 700 residents. The Arizona Republic reached out to the mayor's office for comment on the move and will update this story when a response is received.
American Airlines has 27,000 flight attendants distributed across 13 airports. Sky Harbor is home to 2,360 of those flight attendants.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: American Airlines: 700 Phoenix flight attendants will need to move