One reason air travel a disaster — no hotel rooms for the airlines’ staff

https://www.wsj.com/articles/american-airlines-pilots-and-flight-attendants-unions-say-they-cant-find-hotel-rooms-11627511797?

American Airlines Pilots and Flight Attendants Unions Say They Can’t Find Hotel Rooms

Complaints another sign of air travel’s growing pains, as surge in demand this summer overwhelms tourism hot spots, hotels, airports

Pilots say their schedules have been in constant flux amid last-minute reassignments as airlines try to recover from disruptions.PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON/BLOOMBERG NEWS

By Alison SiderJuly 28, 2021 6:36 pm ET

It isn’t only travelers finding more crowds and fuller hotels this summer. Some flight attendants say they are running into the same problem.

Flight attendants and pilots at American Airlines Group Inc. AAL 0.79% brought complaints against the carrier this week, claiming that the airline has failed to adequately provide hotels and transportation, particularly when bad weather and other disruptions upend flight schedules.

The issues are the latest signs of the travel industry’s growing pains, as the sudden surge in demand this summer has at times overwhelmed airports, hotels and tourism hot spots.

Pilots and flight attendants have said they have sometimes arrived at airports to find they don’t have a hotel for the night, and often face long waits while arrangements are made. That has made it harder for crew to get the rest they are required to have between flights, union leaders said in statements announcing the grievance claims against American.

Airlines have flooded into leisure destinations this summer, including some in remote areas near natural parks—one reason hotels have sometimes been harder to find, union and airline officials say. Hotels have also gotten fuller. In the week ending July 17, U.S. hotels were 71% full, the highest weekly hotel occupancy reached its highest level since October of 2019, according to hotel data tracker STR.

“Flight attendants should not have to wait hours on end to speak with the hotel/limo desk,” Julie Hedrick, president of the union that represents flight attendants at American, said in a statement. Flight attendants have had to sleep in airports because hotels haven’t been found in time, adding: “Crew rest is being impacted.”

Eric Ferguson, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said the lack of hotels and ground transportation on layovers has put pilots in unsafe situations.

A spokesman for American said the airline is looking into the concerns the unions raised. “Taking care of our crew members while they are away from home is a priority for American,” the spokesman said.

This summer has been a tricky one for airlines. Demand increased rapidly––a welcome shift from last year when pandemic fears kept travelers at home. But the surge has also strained airline operations as they raced to retrain pilots and hire call center workers and ground staff. Frequent bouts of severe weather have exacerbated the problems, forcing airlines to scramble to find new flight crews and make sure they have places to stay when they have to spend the night away from home.

Crew members say their lives have also become more challenging. Pilots at American and other airlines have said their schedules have been in constant flux amid last-minute reassignments as airlines try to recover from disruptions.

Flight attendants at other airlines, including United Airlines Holdings Inc., have also had problems getting help finding hotels during disruptions, union officials say. United didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

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