A day in the life of an American 737 FO


Staff member
Scalped this off the DALPA forum, not necessarily sure if it's authentic or not:


I'm just here to do a job, my job.

5:00 AM show for a 6 o'clock go in SFO this morning. Took the 4:40 shuttle from the short layover, and after 4 stops, got through security at 5:10. Straight to the jet which sat all night.

Parking brake pressure sat around 2,000 PSI, in the orange band.
3 of the 4 main tires with low pressure.
A chip in a fan blade in the left engine.
Cracked taxi light.
2 of the 3 exterior emergency exit placards under the FO window deteriorated.
Exterior Evacuation Slide placard on the forward galley door deteriorated.

Did I mention this thing sat all night at a maintenance base?

Anyway, a MX team showed up to work. Then they quit. Apparently AA schedules a maintenance shift change right at the morning push with all the so-called critical flights. New team shows up. Work is being done with all the passengers politely watching from their assigned seats. Departure time keeps getting pushed back. At 7:00, the #1 tells us the flight is canceled and they're deadheading on the 7:10 flight to DFW. So are we. Maintenance tells me the jet is OTS because 2 brake metering valves are leaking.

We gather our stuff, (well most of it, my CA left his earpiece in the jet), and head to the new gate. A manager, Kevin, is working the 7:10 flight. He's stressing. Tells us he's putting us on the next flight, not this one, and to leave him alone. No problem, just means we will be late for our return flight, but we aren't in charge of manning, deadheading, scheduling or SFO, so we sit in those cool round red chairs out of the way and watch the show. Long lines, cell phones out everywhere, agents gate checking bags, and the manager running around trying to keep up.

7:10 comes and goes. The gate door is shut. A gate agent makes the following page in the terminal, "Kevin, return to gate 57. The captain (working the flight) wants to talk to you." Kevin refused to talk to him. The door opens again, and agents are sending down more passengers. Important-looking people are talking to their respective travel departments and jockeying for position at the gate to get the last few seats. Apparently, they tried to close the flight out with 20 empty seats and a long line at the gate from our canceled flight. The captain called bull[Content Deleted].

Our names are called. We weave through the important people to the gate. The agent looks at us, "What's up?" "We don't know, you called our names." "Oh, you're deadheading?" Again, we don't know. "Go sit down." OK.

5 minutes later, our names are called again. "You're on. We're checking your bags." "How will we get our bags in DFW?" They are "Escort Tagged". They will be brought up the jet bridge in DFW with strollers and wheel chairs. "OK, cool". All middle seats in coach, my favorite! We push at 7:33, 23 minutes late. Critical flight canceled and another D+23... We arrive in DFW A+8...

On a side note, our crew breakfasts were not provided on the deadhead, so we hadn't eaten since the night prior.

Our departure back to SFO was scheduled at 12:40, so we figured AA had the flight boarded and ready. We are standing on the jetbridge waiting for our bags. Passengers are deplaning. They're done. The crew leaves and another shows up. Still no bags. Oh , and no keys or vests to go find our bags. We wait. After all, baggage handlers know how to do their jobs, and it's not my job to prod everybody along. We're all highly trained professionals. They board the next flight so we clear the jetbridge into the gate area. They finish and the agent asks us what's going on. We tell her the story. She goes to check. At that time, almost an hour after we arrived, crew tracking calls. "Why aren't you at the next flight?" Captain tells her our story. Here we are. No bags, no manuals, no keys, no nothing. Oh and by the way, we haven't eaten since last night. Tracking says nourishment's hotels and limos' arena.

Tracking calls back. She called the ramp manager. The ramp manager gave her the crew chief's cell phone number. She asked the chief about our bags with the "Escort Tags" on them. He told her no way was he going to carry them up the jetbridge stairs so he left them on the ramp. After a while, he took them to baggage claim. She said he was pissed. We told her that's fine, just have them delivered to the departure gate, which did board on time, ready to go at 12:40. It's now 13:40-ish.

Nobody can deliver our "escort bags" to the new gate, so we go outside security and grab 'em. Come back through security in D, catch the train over to C and to the new gate. No agent, door shut. (Remember when a key would allow us to get to the jet? Not my problem anymore.) Screw it. I walk to McDonald's. Did I mention we hadn't eaten since the night before and it's 14:00 now?. I get back to the gate. The captain's studying the 18-foot-long flight plan. The agent lets me down the jetbridge.

Upon entering the jet, the flight attendant says, "Can you make a PA and tell these passengers why you're late?" She's standing next to a first class passenger in the galley. I say, "Well hi there, I'm Bill. How are you?" Eyeballing my little McDonald's bag, she says, "I'm not getting paid, we boarded over an hour ago, and I can't get off to get food like you have." "Hey I'm sorry, we haven't eaten since yesterday. We deadheaded in and AA lost our bags." I look at the passenger and say, "Hey there, how are you? Can you believe AA would lose our luggage?" He understood and was in a good mood. No problem with him. Just the FA.

I walk around the jet. The captain comes down and we start making our nests. "Cabin's ready." SLAM. Ahhhh, peace behind the cockpit door. I've come to really like that door over the years. We're loading the box, flipping switches, all that cool stuff we do before we get paid. DING, DING. Captain answers, Yes? "Why aren't we moving yet?" Well, we just got here. Now we're running all those checklists we do before we go fly. A few minutes later, DING, DING. Yess? "Can you make a PA and tell these passengers why we're still sitting here?" I'm not making this up.

Finally time to push. 14:50 local. D+130 minutes. BANG. The tow bar breaks. DING, DING. Yesss? "What was that??" Don't worry about it. We have it under control. Please let us do our jobs. MX inspects the jet. No problem. Meanwhile, the agent lets PAX off - without their bags... We can't leave without them. We finally push at 15:52 local. D+192.

After the flight, one of the passenger got in the captain's face as he was deplaning, pointed his finger in his face and said, "You're a THUG! A union THUG! The captain replied, "Sir, you don't know me, but I assure you I'm nothing like that." Yes you ARE! A union THUG! and left.

Maintenance came on and asked who the thug is. Captain fessed up. He laughed. Then he talked about a flight that canceled this morning because the crew "wrote up 19 items 20 minutes before departure". He got a bull[Content Deleted] look from the captain. Then he said, "Of course, the jet did sit here all night with our night shift."

We get to the hotel and on the elevator. A guy says, "Hey, you're not the pilots that just came in from Dallas..." We braced and admitted it. No punches, but he said, "We heard you went to lunch before coming to the plane." He knows that not to be true now.

The hardest part about this day was refraining from repeatedly stepping into the other departments and telling fellow employees what needs to be done. It is engrained in usto anticipate and fix problems we see coming. Once I overcame the urge to tell others how to do their jobs, it actually became quite entertaining to watch the operation.

My advice to you is to not let the frustration of watching others without guidance raise your blood pressure, but to embrace the comedy of errors that ensues.

Do your job. No one else's. Do not tell others what needs to be done. Do not continually follow up.
You called MX once. They are aware. No need to stress them out. The agent told you to sit down. She knows you're there. Don't stress her out. Roll with the flow. They're all highly-trained professionals.

It's a hard habit to break.


Well-Known Member
Pretty calm collected individual. Im pretty sure I would not have been that calm and possibly on my way to jail for breaking someones index finger. Good story.


Well-Known Member
Welcome to bankruptcy, AA!

I'll never forget the quote by Roscoe McMillan about "Southern Jets" agents when the wheels started to come off during the reign of Leo Mullins circa late 90's, (I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the exact quote, I'm not Mickley...) "Now we have 'frantic children' running around at our gates trying to get our aircraft boarded..."



Staff member
I worked on my "Zen" a lot in those years.

The art of watching an operation rapidly crumble, the realization that any ideas you have to rectify it will be (at times) violently rejected and the peace of just letting the system break, picking up the salvageable pieces and continuing on about your day.

Stress and repressed angst will kill you quicker than a pack of Marlboros, a triple bacon cheeseburger and bath-salts milkshakes.


The Great Gazoo
Pretty calm collected individual. Im pretty sure I would not have been that calm and possibly on my way to jail for breaking someones index finger. Good story.
Flying stuff for DHL and UPS has taught me that stressing about being late because of something out of my hands is just increasing my blood pressure for no reason at all.

Soul Brotha'

Well-Known Member
Commuted home today and sat next to AA767 FO. We BS about life and this industry. For what it's worth, he said this is just the beginning unless something monumental happens as far as mng't/merger changes. The union is not advocating any sick outs or slow downs, "Just do your job." After we landed I wished him good luck and that the 121 community is behind them and understands.

Side note, don't care if you are ALPA, IBT, non-union etc. This right here is huge for our profession. Support where you are able to.


Well-Known Member
Million dollar idea!

What will be call it?

"Hey captain, that looks good! I'd order it if I didn't have a gluten allergy but you should try one... Or three!"
It's like some CRJ captains I fly with,

CA - "I need to get a big mac, I haven't eaten since last leg."

Me - "That last flight blocked at :56"

CA - "I know, I won't get this one super sized."


Joe Conventional
I worked on my "Zen" a lot in those years.

The art of watching an operation rapidly crumble, the realization that any ideas you have to rectify it will be (at times) violently rejected and the peace of just letting the system break, picking up the salvageable pieces and continuing on about your day.

Stress and repressed angst will kill you quicker than a pack of Marlboros, a triple bacon cheeseburger and bath-salts milkshakes.
We call that "the art of not giving a crap" up in Dulles. Do what you can control to the best of your ability. But there is so much out there both my company and our mainline partner have shown they have zero interest in changing, so why worry?


Well-Known Member
This story is almost an everyday occurance at the regional level. I can totally relate to this guy, because I am the same way. I do my job and what's in my job description. If other people/departments/management are too lazy/incompetent and don't give me the required tools to do my job, so be it!


Well-Known Member
TBH I think I'm going to stop reading these AA threads for awhile because its making my blood boil and I don't even work there... AA management has definitely crossed a line, but the problem is that this can happen anywhere at any carrier, regional or major. Either way this is why we need to stay unified and push back however we can. Stay strong, no more BS, zero concessions what so ever. Time to go back to my zen... ahhhh :tinfoil:


Very well Member
I'm always curious to how the FAA expects planes to get anywhere at a walking pace. Taxing at ATL would take forever at the speed my grandma walks.