Agents at American Build Relationships to Tackle Air Rage at ORD

By Qushaun Naugle, Passenger Service Coordinator and President, Local 4201 and Jennifer Morales, Gate Agent and Vice President, Local 4201

At airports across the country passenger service agents are preparing for the busy spring break season—which can mean long lines, overbooked flights, and frustrated families. For agents those inconveniences become dangerous when passenger anger boils over into verbal or even physical abuse.

There’s a simple bottom line for every passenger service agent, no matter what their position or the size of their station: We should be able to come to work without fear of angry customers abusing us with words or actions. We have strong support from our union in resolving disputes, and now we hope management will step up and continue to make improvements. We deserve it.

We work for American Airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), one of the world’s busiest hubs, serving more than 80 million passengers a year. On behalf of CWA Local 4201, we’ve been working with AA management and consulting with the Chicago Police Department for the past few months in order to make sure our agents are prepared and safe. 

At ORD we are lucky to have access to professional law enforcement officers on site, and we’ve developed great communication with these officers. During a recent meeting they told us to use the dedicated ORD 911 line when we feel threatened by a passenger. The response times are fast, and our officers are well trained in de-escalating conflicts. Their support increases our peace of mind.

We also appreciate managers who are able to back us up during conflict situations, going beyond the simple, polite words on a poster and letting passengers know it’s completely unacceptable to verbally threaten us or put their hands on us in anger. We’ve seen an increase in managers walking the concourse and making their presence known for a few months. We hope American will also commit to decrease overbooking of flights, which sparks so many conflicts and so much frustration for our customers.