With Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to devote my column this month to a group of men and women whose talents and dedication to American and its customers merit my thanks, and the thanks of air travelers around the world — American Airlines flight attendants. Because our customers typically spend more time with our flight attendants than any other employee group, their hard work and professionalism have long been instrumental in determining how our customers feel about us and whether we will earn their business again in the future.
It may interest you to know that our flight attendants passed a pretty big milestone this year. It was in 1933, 70 years ago, that American Airlines — at that time known as American Airways — flew its first trip with a flight attendant onboard. From a beginning roster of four women, our flight attendant ranks have obviously grown dramatically. Today we are fortunate to have more than 18,000 talented men and women dedicated to making your inflight experience with us a safe and pleasant one.
The profile of the American Airlines flight attend-ant has changed a lot over the years, and the job itself has become a lot more complex. Today’s flight attendants are an amazingly diverse group, who hail from all walks of life. Naturally, as our international network has grown, we have hired people from ever-more-varied backgrounds, many of whom speak two or more languages. But, while much has changed during the past seven decades, one thing that hasn’t changed is the key role our flight attend-ants play in building and maintaining our reputation for safety and service excellence.
Until the 1940s, we required all American flight attendants to be registered nurses. We had to drop that requirement when World War II began and the demand for nurses outran the supply. But even today, American’s flight attendants are often called upon to provide immediate medical care, and in many cases, they have saved lives utilizing the defibrillators we keep onboard every one of our aircraft.
Going above and beyond is second nature to American’s flight attendants. To illustrate, more than 4,000 volunteered to crew military charters so that they could extend the care and attentiveness our customers have long known to our military personnel. One Chicago-based flight attendant brought a square of grass and welcomed the homebound military personnel with their “first step back on U.S. soil.” Another took Polaroid pictures of each soldier as they boarded and mailed them to their families back home, along with notes of support and well wishes.
Of course, it takes more than a big heart to be a good flight attendant. It also takes skill, dedication, and a lot of training. In addition to the extensive education they receive after being hired, every AA flight attend-ant receives two full days of training each year, during which they are able to practice with new equipment and techniques, refresh their knowledge of standard practices and procedures, and learn more about what is happening in our industry.
I cannot claim to be unbiased, but I truly believe American Airlines flight attendants are the best in the business. Today’s group carries the mantle that has been passed from generation to generation for 70 years — and they do so with consummate skill, grace, and professionalism. I’m proud to call them my colleagues and I am very thankful for their many contributions to our airline and, especially, our customers. On their behalf, and on behalf of everyone at American Airlines, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season.
Thank you for flying with us.
GERARD J. ARPEY
President & CEO