A controversial series of YouTube videos mocking a flight attendant’s bosses at American Airlines has morphed into an all-out grassroots movement to remove the upper-management team now running American Airlines, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in November of 2011. The bankruptcy filing was followed by an announcement of extensive layoffs and planned pay cuts at the airline. Multi-million-dollar bonuses and lavish perks were paid to top executives while 15,000 employees expect to lose their jobs and benefits.
A website has been created, www.sAAveAA.com, to allow American employees, the traveling public and workers everywhere to sign the petition online asking that the leadership at American be replaced during the reorganization. Once 250,000 signatures are collected, the petition will be turned over to Judge Sean Lane, who is presiding over the American Airlines bankruptcy case. Gailen David, a 24-year flight attendant with American, has been joined in this campaign by thousands of supporters gained through the popularity of his videos and blogs.
Why would a flight attendant put his job at risk by speaking out so publicly against his employer?
“The current management team has led American though more than a decade of profound decline in customer service, leadership, financial stability and employee morale. The time has come to take a new direction. We ask Judge Lane to put an end to the madness and bring in proven, competent leadership to help create a new American Airlines,” says David, who recently released a series of videos on YouTube poking fun at the management of American Airlines.
A “Message to American Airlines Flight Attendants” was the first video released on YouTube by David—now on a leave of absence. In the video, dressed as a female airline executive with a Texas accent, Mr. David reads a letter sent to flight attendants by American’s Vice President of Onboard Services, Lauri Curtis. His tongue-in-cheek, saccharin-laced rendition of the letter resonated with employees and the public alike and quickly reached viral status on the Internet.
“The response from other American Airlines staff and the general public has been overwhelming and has only given me determination to shine a spotlight on the reckless mismanagement that has been occurring at American for over a decade. It is time for fresh, visionary leadership at AA that will make it an airline that people love to fly and to be a part of once again,” David says.
The next videos were based on the movie trailers for the motion picture “Iron Lady,” which starred Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK. The “Aluminum Lady” and “Aluminum Lady 2” are his spoof on the “Iron Lady” trailers starring American Airlines’ fictional “Minister of Flight Attendants,” a character he created that embodies all of the most inhumane and avaricious qualities of today’s boardroom villains.
American Airlines was not amused and they quickly threatened to terminate David’s employment if he did not show up for an investigatory/disciplinary meeting. Following worldwide media coverage, American’s spokesperson, Bruce Hicks, issued a new statement to the media claiming that they had “no intention” of terminating David. They only wished to discuss the matter with him as he returns to work at the end of his leave of absence. The airline has not yet made a statement since the petition was launched on February 17, 2012.