I’m always intrigued by where airline crews are based. For US carriers there are crew bases at most of their hubs as well as some focus cities, though it’s the stuff beyond that which fascinates me. For example:
- Cathay Pacific has flight attendants and pilots based in San Francisco and Vancouver
- While all Emirates pilots and flight attendants are based in Dubai, they’ll sometimes give preferential bidding to pilots flying home; for example, when I flew Emirates out of Dallas they had the first officer make the welcome aboard announcement, and he stressed how he was from Texas
- Korean Air has pilots based at many of their destinations
I’ve flown American a lot over the years, and I thought I knew where all their bases were. As you’d expect, they have crews based in Charlotte, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, etc.
I even knew they had flight attendants based in Buenos Aires. I’ve only flown with them a couple of times, and they were horrible (which I guess shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since my experience on LAN Argentina wasn’t much better).
I didn’t realize that American has flight attendant bases in other Latin American cities, though.
Flying American out of Miami is always a completely different experience. You feel like you’re flying a foreign carrier and in another country, but that’s typically true even if you’re flying with a Miami based crew.
So I didn’t think twice when we boarded our Miami to Bogota flight last week, and the crew greeted everyone in Spanish, and seemed to have a much better grasp of Spanish than English. That makes sense since 90% of the passengers were Spanish speaking.
But after landing, the flight attendant thanked everyone for flying American on behalf of this “Bogota based crew.” I had no clue! And apparently they have crews based in several other cities in the region.
On the flight back I had a Bogota based crew again, and I asked them about it. They explained that they fly between Miami and various cities in Latin America, though they’re not allowed to work domestic US flights.
So they were flying from Bogota to Miami to Guayaquil, then the next day from Guayaquil to Miami, and then the next day from Miami to Bogota.
Fascinating stuff, as I had no clue American had these bases.
Just like American’s other crew bases, the Bogota crews are a mixed bag. The crew on the way out was extremely professional and attentive, while on the flight back they served everything on one tray and then proceeded to sit in their jumpseats for the rest of the flight.
I think it’s smart to staff a flight with “local” flight attendants. I’ve been on many American flights to/from China which would have benefitted from Chinese flight attendants. While there’s usually one or two language speakers, they’re often American-born, and lack the cultural context useful for understanding flying in China.
These Colombia-based flight attendants didn’t just speak Spanish, but also handled the “culture” very well, which could be overwhelming for someone who has lived in the US all their life, even if they speak Spanish.
Similarly, I’m guessing this is also a huge cost savings for the airline. Colombia is cheap, so I imagine they have different wages and different work rules, so it’s probably quite advantageous.
Had anyone else not realized that American has flight attendants based in several Latin American cities? If you’ve flown with them, what was your experience like?