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Anyone Experienced a LONG Delay For a Crew's Meal Break???

Anyone Experienced a LONG Delay For a Crew's Meal Break???

Nov 15th, 2010, 01:58 PM
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Anyone Experienced a LONG Delay For a Crew's Meal Break???

This past weekend I was taking a short commuter-type flight from Miami to Jacksonville on American Airlines (really American Eagle operated by Executive Airlines).

We started the boarding process on time, and all the passengers boarded the shuttle bus, rode out to the aircraft, then were told by the bus driver that he was turning around and taking us back to the gate because "the flight crew requested a meal break." So we went back to the gate where we waited over 1 HOUR before we were allowed to board the shuttle back to the aircraft.

I ended up arriving about 1 hr. 15 minutes late so the flight crew could go into the terminal and eat breakfast at the food court, apparently! I fly quite a bit and this has never happened to me. Aren't these airlines supposed to schedule proper meal breaks for their crew, or am I missing something and it's common for crews to just decide to eat whenever, delaying flights all the time?

As icing on the cake, as we boarded the aircraft, a flight attendant greeted the passenger in front of me and the passenger didn't respond. So the flight attendant said in a loud voice, "I don't have to deal with this *&^$ today." Wow... I've never flown with such an unprofessional airline before.

Thankfully there was a name and contact information posted inside the shuttle bus that went from the gate to the aircraft. I've emailed and snail mailed a copy of my complaint. I requested a full refund for this one-way flight. But I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this, and how common (or uncommon) this is.

CarolM is offline  
Nov 15th, 2010, 02:42 PM
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Yes, of course you are entitled to a full refund! In fact, you should probably sue them for $10,000.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 15th, 2010, 02:50 PM
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You're not going to get a refund. You got to your destination one hour and 15 minutes late. The terms of your ticket don't entitle you to anything else.

I don't think it's possible to know the whole story here, and I wouldn't necessarily rely on the bus driver's assessment of things. The airline does give flight crews proper breaks. They may have arrived late on an incoming flight and needed to take the meal break to which they were entitled.

I would write about the surly greeting. I wouldn't take up my time or theirs with the complaint about the delay.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Nov 15th, 2010, 03:38 PM
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It is my understanding that there are lots of rules about flight crews getting breaks and not flying too many hours in a row, ert, etc. Perhaps they were late getting to Miami and the rules prohibited them from flying until they had a break--which has nothing to do with how long it would actually take them to eat breakfst. Would you have preferred that your flight be (possibly even more) delayed while the airline got another crew?

If only we were all entitled to a refuind for being 75 minutes late!! I'd have lots more money than I do now. I do think they should write you a sincere apology for the dreadful way the flight attendant behaved.
abram is offline  
Nov 15th, 2010, 08:25 PM
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It would surprise the flying public how poorly some airlines treat their employees. However, most airline employees remain professional despite some poor working conditions.

The availability of meals for flight crews is a contractual situation not federally mandated. Flight crews are limited by how many hours they can be on duty and how many hours they can fly while on duty.

As an example, there is no requirement for a break or meal on a flight Miami to San Franciso although a crew may be on duty over 8 hours to complete this flight. Again depending on the contract the crew is working under they may or may not be provided a meal. For example, Southwest does not provide it's crews with meal and most will pack a lunch or get a quick meal to go on a typical 20 minute turn.

What you experienced is a bit uncommon but I am surprised it does not happen more often. Commuter pilots some times fly a very tight schedule that often only leaves room for peanuts and pretzels especially if you encounter delays through out the day. In the end, you are safer with a flight crew that is well feed and well rested.

I am surprised you did not take your fellow passenger to task for not having the common decency to respond to someone that was being courteous toward him or her. This is the type of treatment front line airline employees deal with on a daily basis but thankfully most of them still do it with a smile.

Not sure why you feel entitled to a refund. If that is the case then all the other passengers on board should also get a refund and American would have flown all of you to JAX for free!

I wonder how long your employer would stay in business if every time it dissapointed it's customers it gave away the store for free.
DMBTraveler is offline  
Nov 15th, 2010, 10:49 PM
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38 years of being a flight attendant-crew breaks? You got to be kidding? The only thing that is a given is a rest break on flights over 7 hours on international.
dutyfree is offline  
Nov 16th, 2010, 04:29 AM
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The last place I would look for definitive information is from a bus driver.
NoFlyZone is offline  
Nov 16th, 2010, 07:17 AM
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I think Carol was right sending the letter. She explained everything from her point of view - how else the airline would know what happened? From the same bus driver?

The letter can end up in a basket of a secretary who opens these types of letters, and who's told by the boss not to bother him/her with such triviality. Or they can make an example of it, and request the bus company to punish the bus driver for misinformation, who knows!
Dayenu is offline  
Nov 16th, 2010, 08:19 AM
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I think the airlines know what happens when a flight is delayed without receiving a complaint letter. However, complaints may force them to address some of the problems that can cause delays.

Of course we do not know what was written in the letter but I hope it raised awareness that flight crews should not have to take a break to eat! Airlines should allow for this in scheduling flights and treat their employees like most other companies seem to have no problem doing.

How this delay should result in a "full refund" is beyond me or is it that passengers are okay flying with hungry and fatigued pilots as along as they get a cheap airfare and to their destinations on time?

DMBTraveler is offline  
Nov 16th, 2010, 04:24 PM
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I would send an email to the airline explaining exactly what happened. Maybe you can squeeze some frequent flyer miles out of them. But being delayed 75 minutes, even for the strangest of reasons, does not justify a refund.
P_M is offline  
Nov 21st, 2010, 08:49 AM
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Thank you for your responses. While I realize it's not likely I will receive a refund, I think it's ok to request one and be happy with miles, if I can receive that. I paid $170 for a one-way flight, and missed half of my reason for flying to this destination because I believe the commuter airline doesn't schedule proper breaks for its crew.

It was not only the bus driver who informed us the crew requested a meal break... the agents at the gate confirmed that this is indeed what happened. I did ask if the crew was late in arriving and missed a meal break, and they said that there had been no delays that morning (this was a morning departure) but they have to honor the request whenever a crew asks for a break.

I wanted to bring this issue to attention... either the airline is not scheduling proper meal breaks, or the crew should not have been allowed to delay such a short flight by over an hour. Of course I'm not privy to whatever contractual agreements exist within an airline, but I feel that it's completely fine to bring this issue to the attention of the airline. I also felt it was imperative that I mention the flight attendant audibly cursing.

My post was mainly to ask if this was a common occurrence that I had been lucky enough to avoid in the past. I've flown quite a bit and never experienced a delay for a crew meal break, so I was posting to see if others had experienced this.

DMBTraveler is on point -- I wanted to raise some awareness here because this did not sound right. An airline should be scheduling proper meal breaks, and if this is not the case and is done haphazardly at the request of crews (thus messing up paying customers' schedules) then the airline needs to hear more about this.

FYI, my letter was very "professional" and calm and I explained exactly what happened. I don't consider myself an unreasonable person... however I felt I was being put in an unreasonable situation. I completely understand delays for weather, repairs, etc, and have endured plenty. But this just did not seem right to me. We'll see if I ever hear back from them.
CarolM is offline  
Nov 21st, 2010, 12:08 PM
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DMB traveler and others-I think that the traveling public should realize that whether it is a domestic flight or an international flight-airlines do not do their scheduling so that crews can get breaks for eating!Working for the airlines is NOT like working for any other company-up until a few years ago there was not extra pay for holidays,etc. Everyday is the same whether it is a weekend;middle of the night or a holiday so to compare and expect airlines to treat their employees like another big company is not knowing how we work.
I spent the first 30 years of being a flight attendant on 14 hour days to 7 cities a day and NEVER had meal breaks. You eat when you can and bring alot of food from home.On international flights one gets a rest break per FAA rulings but NOT meal breaks-once again you eat when you can;bring food from home or possibly get a crew meal of whats leftover or what they put on for you.
As I have said in the past,you the consumer are actually paying less for an airline ticket than what you have in the past.
dutyfree is offline  
Nov 21st, 2010, 05:35 PM
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Thanks for the follow up. I hope your letter and others like it will have an effect on how airlines do business. Customer's should not have to be inconvenienced for their poor management! Interestly enough airlines charge higher fares for most commuter segments because there is usually less competition. I almost flew the same route but it was cheaper from FLL on Southwest. American, MIA-JAX was $364RT, a bit more than you can sometimes fly from MIA/FLL to LGA/EWR. Go figure!
DMBTraveler is offline  
Nov 21st, 2010, 05:56 PM
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I understand the airline industry is a different business but employees no matter who you work for are still human beings! No employee should have to feel forced to take a break to eat especially when it causes an inconvenience for the company's customers.

Even if I did not know how you work I would hope you do not feel mistreated by your employer. Obviously, this crew on CarolM's flight did not feel as good about their working conditions as you might about yours.

I am sure delaying a flight is not an easy thing for a crew to do without some conviction or consequences. Although, I would not like to be delayed on a flight, I appauld this crew for doing what they felt was the right thing for them to do.

In the end, I prefer to have a well rested, feed and "happy" flight crew because it might just affect my safety.
DMBTraveler is offline  
Nov 21st, 2010, 09:07 PM
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DMBT: "No employee should have to feel forced to take a break to eat especially when it causes an inconvenience for the company's customers."

Well -- in many states that is the law (not just for airlines, for EVERY employer). Employees/employers often do not have any choice. It is very common that breaks and meal times/intervals are not flexible. And employers can be fined huge amounts for not complying.
janisj is online now  
Nov 21st, 2010, 09:08 PM
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DMB, agree wholeheartedly. I definitely want the people flying my plane and in charge of my safety to NOT be low blood sugar, or whatever! My main beef here is the mismanagement, by the airline, to not take care of making sure their crews have adequate breaks, or opportunities to eat. dutyfree brings up a point that is unreal. Don't you think most average travelers believe that airlines schedule opportunities for their crews to eat? Shocking that that's not the case.
CarolM is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 01:17 AM
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I would have never guessed that crews had "lunch breaks" but rather do as dutyfree said.

If you considered the time the crew needs to get from the aircraft to a restaurant (even if it was airside), eat, and go back, you'd have a gap of appr. 1 1/2 hours you need to fill either with another crew, or you need to let the aircraft sit idle at the gate.
Even if that plane was just 60 minutes in the air, and was a regular 737 or similar with 80 pct seats sold, it would generate a revenue of appr $15K (assuming an average ticket price of $100 for a 1hr flight).
I cannot see one airline stupid enough to waste that huge amount of money - unless required by regulations.

Most domestic routes I fly have planes going back and forth between the same cities the whole day.
I guess that crews eat a sandwich during turnaround or whenever they have a minute to spare as dutyfree said.
It would be totally naive to assume that they do NOT work the maximum allowed/ legal hours ON the plane but leave the aircraft to have a leisurely meal somewhere in an airport restaurant (unless their shift has ended or not started yet).

On intercontinental flights, I see them eating the regular meals in the galley once they served the passengers/ customers. Or have an apple in a spare minute.

Neither working on the flight deck nor in the cabin is probably a suitable job for those who go into "sugar shock" when their lunch break gets postponed from 1pm to 1.30pm. Or those who "cannot work" when the coffee machine breaks down. (I'm one of the latter)

If your body and soul are that sensitive, you do not belong on an aircraft (except as a crabby passenger who goes into "shock" when 200 pax cannot get their meal the very same minute, or when pasta is gone and he is stuck with chicken).

With long hours, the stress on the biological clock due to different time zones and working different shifts, the impossibility to take a break in mid air, the "problem" of bringing your own sandwiches is probably one of the least most flight crews worry about.

It's a tough job that comes with many restrictions but I assume that both pilots and FAs learn that during their training and are fully aware of the potential downsides of their job. Especially those who never experienced the long stopovers on intercontinental flights of the old days.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 04:48 AM
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It is my understanding that crews do not have a traditional “lunch break” however adequate time should be provided in their daily schedule for meals. As an example, if you are taking a flight that departs at 5:40am most airlines would require their flight crews to be at the airport at 4:40am. Depending on how far away their hotel is located from the airport it may require a crew member getting up as early as 3:40am! Now I do not know many restaurants near hotels that I have stayed at that are open at 3:40am. In this situation and for most early morning departures crews arrive at the airport without having a reasonable opportunity to eat breakfast.

In the past most airlines would provide a breakfast on board for flight crews with early departures. However, for most this is no longer the case. Now your crew that probably got up at 3:40am has about an hour to go through security, find breakfast and prepare the airplane for an on-time departure at 5:40am!

Seems like a ridiculous situation to put a flight crew in that now has to fly two, three, or maybe even four more flights with an hour or so break in between them which does not account for unknown delays.

In a regular work environment this may be an easy situation to manage but you can hardly say working in the airline industry is normal.

We do not know the full details of why this particular flight crew requested a break but my guess is that if you looked at their work day schedule you might get a glimpse of how poor their working conditions and stupid some airline management can be. This was a “commuter” flight and they tend to have some of the worst working conditions in the industry.
DMBTraveler is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 06:52 AM
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DMB, since neither you nor I seem to have worked as a member of a cabin crew or on the flight deck, it is somewhat naive to judge someone else's working conditions.

Personally, I would not want to change my workplace with a flight attendant or pilot.

On the other hand, no one in that business can be so naive to whine about getting up at 3am so and so many times each month as these working hours are part of their business. It would be as silly as whining about dealing with blood, needles, and
injured persons if you were a nurse.

Not all crews start their working day at some foreign hotel in Kuala Lumpur or Moscow. Many work from home a good deal of the time, so they can fix a sandwich in their own kitchen, even at 3am.
If they stay at hotels: Just because YOU don't know any restaurants that are open at that hour does not mean that there aren't any, or that the crew shuttle wouldn't stop elsewhere. When I stayed at hotels where also crews stayed, it was not unusual to get a "light breakfast" at 4am.

But if I had to get up that early, I'd rather sleep half an hour longer than having a "real" breakfast at 3 in the morning. No one can eat a real breakfast at that time anyway.

Working in the airline industry is as "normal" as working for the police, fire brigade, as a doctor or a nurse, or the night shift at the nuclear power plant, or thousands of other jobs that require to be fit and alert outside the usual 9-5 cubicle hours. Not for everybody, and you cannot make those jobs "nicer" so even a pampered office jock feels comfortable working as a FA.

What you consider a "ridiculous situation" is standard operations in the airline industry around the globe for years and years now. Especially since not only Mr and Mrs Trump or their likes can afford to travel by plane.
At least not here in Europe, crews don't have ONE HOUR in between flights. The turnaround is done in 30-40 minutes max. Deduct the time until the last pax have left the aircraft, the galley is stocked with beverages and snacks, and the first new pax enter the plane, their time to "relax" is appr. zero to 10 minutes. That's not "stupid management" but cost-efficient use of resources. If you want to change that, tell United or Continental that you wish to pay 50 percent more for your ticket next time.

If you can't take that tough working schedule, you are in the wrong place. And I say that with full sympathy and admiration to those men and women who are able to deal with my Mr Jekyll side when I have to take a 7am flight.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 07:36 AM
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You make some valid points however I think life and work is not so simple. It would be nice if they were. Most people have their work conditions change over time and this can be especially true with contract employees. It is not so simple to quit your job if you don't like it! Change is brought about by action of management, employees and customers no matter what business you are in.

CarolM was right to complain, the flight crew was right to request a meal break if they felt it was necessary and management has a right to act how it feels is appropriate. The right solution here lies somewhere in the middle that is why all parties concerned must take action to bring about the appropriate change.

I would be surprised if your your working conditions have stayed the same over your career or if you had not had occasion to complain about them. Then again you might be an exception.

I wonder how many in the airline industry or otherwise would agree with you that it is like any other business. Not to many jobs I know can require you to be on duty up to 18 hours a day or give you the responsibility of hundreds of lives in a multi-million dollar piece of equipment. Each job has it's own unique attributes and should be treated as such.

Most employees are aware of their job requirements but there is an underlying sense in all of us that want reasonable treatment for a dollar's (or in your case euro's) day of work. If the only requirement of the employer in regards to the employee is cost efficiency then we are all in big trouble unless you are Donald Trump!
DMBTraveler is offline  

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