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October 16, 2023

Flight attendants criticize American Airlines' response to colleague's 'suspicious' death in Philly hotel

The union representing the carrier's cabin crews accuses a senior executive of dismissing their concerns after the alarming incident

Protests Airlines
american-airlines-flight-attendants.jpg Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

American Airlines' flight attendants recently issued a letter declaring a vote of no confidence in Senior Vice President of Inflight Services Brady Byrne, who the workers accuse of being dismissive of their concerns following the mysterious death of a colleague in a Philadelphia hotel. Above, one of the airline's planes photographed in London.

American Airlines' flight attendants are up in arms over their employer's response to the death of one of their colleagues in a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport late last month. 

Last week, members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants — the labor union that represents more than 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants — marched into the airline's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas to deliver a letter criticizing the way a senior executive handled the tragic incident and the company's dismissive response to workers' safety concerns, according to a statement published by the APFA

In late September, 66-year-old flight attendant Diana Ramos was found dead with a cloth in her mouth inside a room at the Marriott Hotel near PHL. Ramos was reportedly discovered by a cleaning crew at the hotel two days after she was supposed to check out. There was no sign of forced entry and no weapons were recovered, but police said they are investigating Ramos' "suspicious" death as a homicide. 

That investigation is still underway. Police said there are no updates to share as of Monday. 

When Ramos failed to show up for a flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, the APFA said American Airlines did not follow the normal procedure of calling the hotel to ask to check Ramos' hotel room, Forbes reported

After Ramos' death, American Airlines' cabin crews expressed safety concerns and asked senior management to relocate them to another hotel for layovers in Philly while police investigated Ramos' mysterious death. According to the union's letter to American Airlines CEO Robert Isom, senior leadership refused to grant that request. 

The group's letter specifically calls out Senior Vice President of Inflight Services Brady Byrnes, who the union criticizes for his "dismissive attitude" after flight attendants expressed their concerns. The letter includes a vote of no confidence in Byrnes. After initially attempting to deliver the letter lambasting Byrnes to Isom, APFA members reportedly delivered it to Byrnes himself. 

"When flight attendants communicated genuine fears for their security to American management, Mr. Brynes' response was not one of assurance and action but one of indifference," reads the letter. "The refusal to temporarily relocate crew members who felt unsafe and the further denial of a request for Inflight management to assuage the fears of the crews laying over at the Philadelphia Marriott by simply meeting the few inbound crews staying at the property speaks volumes about his lack of leadership." 

In addition to decrying the airline's response to Ramos' death, the letter criticizes senior leadership for maintaining a "dehumanizing" lateness policy that penalizes flight attendants for being late to their flight's gate regardless of the reason. The letter also charges that workers face unfair punitive measures when faced with a sudden illness and accuses Byrnes of "circumventing the family leave program" without concern for employee's health and well-being. 

The APFA's condemnation of management's conduct comes as the union prepares to resume labor negotiations with American Airlines' leadership in the hopes of forging a new contract that addresses workers' concerns and salary requirements and avoid a strike like the one APFA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize in late August.