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A flight attendant says he's seeing cabin crew 'voluntarily dropping shifts, not coming to work' amid travel chaos

Sarah Al-Arshani   

A flight attendant says he's seeing cabin crew 'voluntarily dropping shifts, not coming to work' amid travel chaos
  • A flight attendant says the current travel chaos has led to some crew members calling out.
  • Others are switching to other airlines that pay better leaving some flights short-staffed, George Connelly, told Insider.

As flight cancellations and delays continue, a flight attendant said he's noticed cabin crew members react to a chaotic travel season.

"As a collective we're voluntarily dropping shifts, not coming to work, because we just don't wanna deal with any of that stuff, " George Connelly, a flight attendant with Spirit Airlines, told Insider, referring to extensive air travel disruptions this summer. "Which actually, compounds the problem because now they're having to call reserve crew members who may take two, three hours to get to the airport."

Delays on one flight have impacted others. In one instance, Connelly said his flight was delayed on the tarmac for two hours because there was only one ground crew to deboard five flights that landed within an hour of each other at nearby gates at Chicago's international airport.

"It's just, there's no way to get it done in a reasonable timeframe," he said.

Internationally, airlines have faced labor shortages amid a surge in travelers this summer. Thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed last month alone, and in some cases, travelers have had their flights rebooked from different countries. Baggage has been lost and or placed on charter flights just to get luggage to its right destination.

Experts previously told Insider that while the shortage crisis differs from airline to airline, staff shortages across the airline industry existed before the pandemic and were worsened as employees were furloughed or fired as travel significantly decreased during the pandemic.

Last month, Airlines like American had to suspend about 100 regional routes due to a lack of pilots. In April, the Department of Transportation received 637 complaints against Spirit airlines, mostly for delays or cancellations. That same month, Spirit flight attendants protested at airports in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Orlando over staff shortages and flight cancellations.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents these workers, said in April that the labor shortage meant there weren't enough flight attendants to handle these cancellations, and many flight attendants were stranded in airports for hours or overnight.

Connelly told Insider that the labor shortages are impacting airline and airport staff like baggage crews and fuelers. Last month, a pilot for a European airline blamed the travel chaos on a shortage of air traffic controllers and airport staff. Some pilots have been recorded helping baggage crew members load luggage to help move along delayed flights. If conditions don't improve — further extending air travel disruptions to t crew and attendants — cancellations could worsen, Connelly said.

"People are just having to pitch in wherever they can," he said, adding that he's heard of instances where people in various roles have helped out doing things not normally assigned to their role. However, as flight attendants, he said the FAA prohibits them from leaving the aircraft during the boarding process so there's not a lot else they could do to assist.

'A lot of turnover'

When it comes to flight attendants calling out or switching jobs, he said the issue goes back to management. Connelly said he's seen flight attendants from low-budget airlines that tend to pay less switch to work for larger airlines like Delta and American, which pay more.

"So it has been a lot of turnover," he said.

Connelly said it's rare that a flight has to be canceled because of a lack of cabin crew, but in the future, more flights could be canceled because there are not enough flight attendants for a flight to take off.

"If nothing changes then in the next couple months to a year, you're going to see a lot more cancellations for the crew," Connelly said.

As the travel chaos continues, Connelly advised flyers to book their flights days in advance, though there's no guarantee as flights can be canceled midflight.

"I think that they can go into it not expecting a whole lot," Connelly said, referring, in particular, to families who have booked trips or cruises. "I would just tell 'em to expect the unexpected as cliche as that sounds."


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