After more than 50 years, American Airlines to relocate 400 SF-based flight attendants out of CA

"It's a sad day. It feels like a kick in the gut." Some of the flight attendants have been with the company for 20 to 40 years

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ByJ.R. Stone via KGO logo
Thursday, September 15, 2022
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American Airlines says it will relocate hundreds of San Francisco International Airport-based flight attendants to other parts of the country.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- American Airlines announced that they are relocating more than 400 flight attendants who were based out of San Francisco International Airport, to other parts of the country.

American has had a flight attendant base at SFO for 50 plus years but that will soon end. Blaming competition, rising fuel costs and reduced customer demand. We're told that this won't affect flight service, but it will affect families that have worked for American and lived in the Bay Area for 20, 30, or even 40 years.

"It's a sad day. It feels like a kick in the gut. Being told that you're going to have to go somewhere else is just the heartbreak of every individual that has been here in San Francisco," says Tim Schwartz who is the Union President for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants for American at SFO.

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Schwartz, a 27-year flight attendant for American Airlines who is based out of San Francisco, is reacting to news that he will have to leave California. One of 403 Bay Area American Airlines flight attendants that will be relocated or offered retirement packages as the company will close its San Francisco flight attendant base.

"We're a close family and it makes it hard to know that our family will be broken up at the end of January and we'll all be going to different places," said Schwartz.

RELATED: SFO airport post office to permanently close Thursday, saddening longtime patrons

In a statement, American Airlines says, "We expect that San Francisco will maintain the same level of flying it does today, but there are no plans to grow San Francisco and no future flying prospects..."

Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution Lee Ohanian says sadly, this is not surprising, saying last year San Francisco lost six and a half percent of its population.

"San Francisco is perhaps the slowest growing major city in the country. The move by American is really just an indication that San Francisco is not a growing location and it's more profitable for them to move flight attendants," says Ohanian.

Some of the flight attendants being relocated have been with American for anywhere from 20 to 40 years. Ohanian says that is something the airline likely took into consideration.

"American is thinking we have a lot of these folks who are going to be retiring in the next 5-10 years if we want to replace them and keep that flight attendant base in San Francisco it's going to be a killer for them to afford to live in the city paying $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 a month in rent," says Ohanian.

Schwartz believes the financial impact of the pandemic might have been the end all here.

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They're still I think bleeding cash, they've got to be very careful with how they spend their money and I think the San Francisco flight attendants are just the casualty of that," said Schwartz who tells us he is looking at the possibility of relocating to Phoenix or Dallas. LAX is not an option as there is already a waitlist for American flight attendants there.

As to how we stop this, Ohanian believes some of the company and housing regulations in California have to come off, and we need to be demanding more of our politicians. Demanding a focus on how to bring in and keep companies.

FULL STATEMENT FROM AMERICAN AIRLINES:

"Over the past few years, American's network and schedule have evolved based on a number of factors, including our size, shifting customer demand and changes to our fleet. As we look at the future of our network, we expect that San Francisco will maintain the same level of flying it does today, but there are no plans to grow San Francisco and no future flying prospects based on our current network strategy. Because of that, we've made the difficult decision to close our San Francisco flight attendant base. Importantly, any SFO-based flight attendant who wants one will have a spot at another base. This isn't a decision we take lightly and we're committed to working with the SFO team to ensure a smooth transition to another base if they choose to continue flying."

LETTER TO EMPLOYEES:

Dear SFO flight attendants,

This isn't an easy note for me to write. Today it's with great regret that I let you know about our decision to close the SFO flight attendant base and SMF satellite effective January 31, 2023. While rumors of this have long been circulating, I know it doesn't make the news any easier to process. Right off the bat, I want to let you know we're here to support you and to assure you that every SFO-based flight attendant who wants one will have a spot at another base, nor does this news affect our plans to continue hiring flight attendants-more on that in a bit.

I feel our entire team owes it to you to provide a clear explanation of the rationale behind this decision.

An evolving network and airline schedule

It's no secret that COVID made its mark on the world and the airline industry in particular. The pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate, from top to bottom, how we do business and how we serve our customers so that we're positioned to be both reliable and profitable. Even before the pandemic, our west coast strategy evolved over the years and decades. At one point in the early 2000s, our SFO base was about five times the size it is today. Some of you may remember the days of operating our SJC hub - flying to destinations like Hawaii, Paris CDG, Tokyo NRT and even Taipei (TPE). With competition, rising fuel costs, and reduced customer demand, these routes became unprofitable and no longer fit nicely into our network.

Our pilot base in SFO closed a decade ago. Despite this, we worked hard to keep our flight attendant base open since we knew many flight attendants still call it home. As we look to the future, we expect SFO to maintain the same level of flying as it does today, but there are no plans to grow SFO and no future flying prospects based on our current network strategy. Over the past ten years or so, our SFO flight attendant base has become less and less efficient, especially when it comes to the supportability of our network and schedule - which brings us to today's difficult announcement.

Moving forward

I know today's news is both sad and disappointing. That's why I want you to know that the entire Flight Service team is committed to making this as smooth a transition as possible.

Options for other bases

Crew Planning is currently finalizing the forecast for vacancies at other bases, and you'll have several options. It's likely that all bases, except LAX, will have a certain number of vacancies. We're working to finalize the bidding process for these vacancies and will communicate the details in the coming days.

Please check your CCI messages carefully because that's where we'll communicate important information about the options you have moving forward.

To level set expectations, LAX will not have vacancies for displaced flight attendants - despite its desirable geographic proximity to SFO. There are several reasons for this. Chiefly, there's a lengthy waiting list of approximately 200 displaced (former LAX) flight attendants who already have a priority of return (POR). And when you couple this with little to no changes to our LAX network - particularly post-pandemic - we don't see our LAX flight attendant base growing in 2023.

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Relocation assistance

Per the contract, flight attendants who move to a new base are eligible for relocation assistance. You can read more about this online.

Dedicated resources to answer your questions

We have set up a dedicated mailbox to answer questions and prioritize questions about the base closure:

We've also developed a comprehensive guide with frequently asked questions which you can access in Comply365.

Comply365 - My Publications - SFO Base Closure Information

We're here to support you

To kick things off, we'll host a town hall in SFO the week of Sept. 26. I, along with several senior leaders from Flight Service and Crew Planning, will be there in person to answer your question and help you navigate the journey ahead.

SFO has a long history as a flight attendant base, and I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge its rich past of 50+ years. Many of you reading this have spent the majority, if not all, of your flying career here. Your local leadership team and the rest of Flight Service stand ready to support you during the next few months and later as you adjust to your new base.

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