A longtime American Airlines flight attendant said the company threatened to fire him on Friday over parody videos poking fun at company executives that he posted to YouTube.
"You know what? It gave everybody at American a laugh that we so needed," said Gailen David, of Miami, who has worked for American for 24 years.
In one of the videos, "Aluminum Lady" -- a parody of the movie "Iron Lady," about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher -- he dressed as a female executive and held a toy airplane.
"We can run each one of these aircraft with about three less flight attendants," he joked. "It looks like it's perfectly doable."
In another video, he posed as an actual American executive and mocked a recent letter that she wrote to employees.
"I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to dress up and get in front of a camera and read this letter how they really meant it," he said.
American declared bankruptcy in November and announced this month that it planned to cut 2,300 flight attendants.
David said his bosses demanded that he remove the videos and summoned him to a disciplinary meeting on Friday that he did not attend.
"I'm not taking them down because too many people are enjoying them right now," he said.
He said his supervisor told him he would be fired for insubordination if he didn't go to the meeting, but he had not received official word he had been terminated.
In a written statement, company spokesman Bruce Hicks said David's videos crossed a line.
"We expect our employees to treat one another with respect," he said. "While we recognize our employees' right to express their viewpoints, we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to attacking or harassing other employees."
David said he has received an overwhelmingly positive response from co-workers.
"I have to do what I have to do," he said. "They may fire me for it, and that's going to be OK."
The American Association of Flight Attendants is supporting him.
"Anybody who can get us to smile under these circumstances, I applaud," said Laura Glading, union president. "American has completely overreacted. We support Gailen."
David said he figures he would lose his job in the airline's bankruptcy whether or not he posted the videos.
"We all have tried to deliver such great customer service," he said. "And in return, it feels like we keep getting kicked in the gut, so this was a time for me to do something to make us all laugh for a change and really say what needed to be said."
|American Airlines Bankruptcy:
Find complete coverage of the American Airlines bankruptcy proceedings, expert analysis and impact to customers and the local economy in our special section. Click here for more.