On Saturday, American Airlines flights were delayed and canceled as the airline scrambled to deliver meals to passengers stranded in Dallas, Texas. The airline first blamed the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new training requirements for its failure to properly prepare for the crisis. But on Wednesday, the airline issued a statement blaming the CARES Act.

It’s been a rough few days for American Airlines. The carrier’s CEO Doug Parker resigned yesterday, blaming the airline’s recent troubles on the dreaded “CARES” act. Parker had said that the law, passed by the Congress in 2009, required all airlines to take a preventative approach to customer service. According to Parker, the law was flawed because it required airlines to put the customer’s interests first, instead of the airline’s. Parker’s resignation letter read: “I find that as we implement the Cares program — which is designed to prevent a crisis — we are experiencing a crisis of leadership, culture, and control at American Airlines.”

At least one airline has blamed the airline catering requirement set forth in the Cargo Airline Equipment Service (Cares) Act of 2014 on the lack of food service on flights to Dallas. The airline in question is American Airlines, who blames the Cares Act as the reason they have lost $12,000 in revenue in the past two weeks, due to the lack of serving food on flights to Dallas.

American Airlines Blames The CARES Act For Lack Of Catering On Dallas Flights

American Airlines Blames The CARES Act For Lack Of Catering On Dallas Flights

by Gary Leff on June 26, 2024

The CARES Act and successor spending bills gave $79 billion from U.S. taxpayers to airlines. But American Airlines is blaming the laws for its inability to catering flights out of Dallas – Fort Worth with beverages and snacks.

At a recent employee question and answer session, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, a flight attendant asked CEO Doug Parker about catering problems in Dallas and Charlotte. Parker responded by blaming catering companies who have been unable to to hire employees.

American Airlines officially brought back snacks and beverage service (but no alcohol) to economy cabins on June 1. However the crewmember was frustrated by 3 and 4 hour-long flights with nothing to serve passengers, which they felt makes the volatile situation with passengers frustrated over masks even worse.

Parker explained the problem,

We did start catering flights June 1, and what we have found…what I’ve been told, this is largely a DFW issue. It is related to the fact that our caterer in DFW [LSG Sky Chefs] cannot in today’s environment hire enough drivers to cater the airplane.

It’s a driver issue. The drivers unfortunately are required to have a commercial drivers license. There’s a little bit of a lead time on it. They weren’t prepared to ramp up.

As I know you’ve all heard jobs around the country that pay something around $15, $16 an hour, the CARES Act that helped all of us also included some supplemental unemployment provisions that makes it so that in general if you’re unemployed you can make around $16 an hour on unemployment so it’s awfully hard to convince people to work for the exact same amount they can be paid not to work for obvious reasons.

Parker noted the problem attracting employees doesn’t just affect catering, but “We had the same issue with wheelchairs by the way. These are not excuses I’m just telling you what’s going on.”

American has been “ramping up faster and [caterers] haven’t been ready. Of course we knew that was an issue.” Parker says if they can’t fix it they’ll scale back flights or scale back drink service,

We wouldn’t have started this if we didn’t think we could do it. The real point is we’re not going to keep doing it if, we got this far without going and sending carts up and down the aisle. There was no requirement to do it on June 1. If indeed it can’t be provided we’ll pull the schedule down or they figure out a way they can provide it.

Brady Brynes, who manages inflight service for American, offered that the problem is keeping airport Starbucks closed too: “You’ve seen some of the Starbucks locations closed…they’re not closed because they weren’t making money. They’re closed because they can’t find anybody to work.”

They knew they had a problem according to Byrnes, but decided it was better to move forward with drink and snack service anyway: “Why punish the system or the masses for DFW” so they rolled out service to flights even though one station would have a problem.

The airline felt they needed to add back service as a result of conversations with corporate customers, competitor airlines offering service, and pressure from partners Alaska Airlines and JetBlue who have tight relationships with American but more inflight offerings.

Byrnes added that the driver problem the developed after bringing back some service would have affected continued distribution of plastic bags with bottled water and cookies, too, because the labor shortage wasn’t in assembling the service items it’s in delivery to the aircraft.

What they’ve been doing to relieve the Dallas issue is “flyover provisioning, instead of double provisioning [beverages and snacks on flights] out of Dallas we double provision flights out of a different city [when flights will go] through Dallas” so that catering trucks do not “have to touch the aircraft out of Dallas to save that driver for another flight.”

Ultimately though the package of legislation that was supposed to help the airline industry ramp back up is holding them back, Parker thinks, because their catering provider can’t find truck drivers with commercial licenses to work cheap enough as a result.

More From View from the Wing

While American Airlines is blaming the federal government’s new change to the tax code for the lack of catering on their flights to Dallas, the company is also blaming their own corporate policies. As part of their new “best place to work” program, American Airlines is required to provide free food and drinks to all employees, even those who don’t fly.. Read more about southwest airlines and let us know what you think.

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