With the possibility of a flight attendant strike looming, American has taken a somewhat desperate (but not unprecedented) step to prepare for the potential workforce shortage: Training management staff to take over.
Bloomberg News reports that American "is studying the training of replacement workers in case flight attendants strike after 20 months of contract talks."
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Alison Duquette told Bloomberg that American "has told us they are considering" the idea, but haven't initiated the process as of yet. Any shortened version of the typical flight attendant training program would need to be approved by the FAA.
Bloomberg reports that this isn't the first time American had to call in the calvary, so to speak. "In 1993, American trained about 1,300 managers and volunteers in an attempt to keep more planes flying during a five-day strike by attendants. The work stoppage, which occurred just before Thanksgiving and ended when then-President Bill Clinton intervened, cost the carrier at least $10 million a day.
Replacements underwent a 10-day course that focused on safety and was monitored by the FAA. Federal requirements call for one flight attendant for every 50 seats on an aircraft."
Now, the idea of American's management pushing drink carts down the aisle may bring a grin to some customers' faces, considering the litany of fees implemented by the carrier in the past few years. But American isn't specifying who would be involved, and it's doubtful that executives will be relegated to handing out sandwiches (and, of course, swiping passengers' credit cards).
And at this point it's hard to say whether or not American's contingency plan will be necessary. Talks between American and the flight attendants union are scheduled for late February, and there are additional procedural steps that would need to be cleared before a strike (or lockout, for that matter) could begin.
UPDATE, Feb. 4 The flight attendants' union has voiced its opinion, and it's none too pleased. Read about it here.