I flew AC
on Friday in J class and had my seat assignment changed from 7A to 2D
upon boarding as the crew were short and they were trying to locate all passengers into the forward cabin so as to permit better service. The service standards did not suffer, but they probably would have had there been passengers seated in both cabins. Apart from the 3 passengers supposed to have been seated in the rear cabin and subsequently reseated, I don't think any others were even aware that there was a short crew.
Now on to Air India, an airline with whom I am extremely familiar and who is currently experiencing a horrendous cabin crew shortage. AI
's prescribed staffing for a 744 (12F-26J-385Y) is 1 Supervisor, 4 Pursers, 5 Assistant Pursers and 10 Hostesses for a total of 20. Over the last few years, due to attrition, expansion and a government mandated 10-year hiring freeze the airline is currently short by approximately 40% less crew than optimal. As a result, the 744 LONGHAULS were being staffed with 1+2+3+7 for a total of 13 (down from 20). The 744 SHORTHAULS were being staffed by 1+2+2+6 for a total of 11 - minimum complement.
As a result service standards absolutely DID suffer. Any and all nonrevs willing to work were drafted in to help with basic galley prep work like sorting special meals, counting linens, etc... The A-zone First Class service optimally has 3 crew + 1 supervisor working 12 passengers (2 aisle, 1 galley) and the Upper Deck Business Class service optimally has 3 crew working 26 passengers - again 2 aisle, 1 galley. Due to the shortage, the Supervisor (who is a management employee whose job description has no designated service duties) winds up having to assist the Purser with A-zone aisle service (with the Asst. Purser doing galley prep), and the upper deck crew have to "borrow" one crew member from B-zone economy class for their galley prep. As a result, the upper deck crew are forced to consolidate the number of runs through the cabin that they can realistically manage. Thus the starter and entree courses are usually consolidated on a single tray run, with desert/fruit/cheese on the second run through - after which the "borrowed crew" goes back downstairs to pick up the B/C zone economy class service while the Hostess takes over galley duties (like Coffee/Tea prep) as the Purser solo handles liquers. If there is a willing nonrev aboard who is trained in "proper" prep, they will be shoved into an Economy Class galley position and one of the Economy Class on-duty crew will move upstairs for the full duration of the service to maintain the 2-person aisle throughout.
With 7-9 short crew, the remaining folks make out like bandits for short pay, although they are inevitably walking zombies by the end of a multi-service flight. Passengers aren't usually told about the situation unless they specifically ask or comment about it though. "Pedal to the metal" can only go so far - when the shortfall hits almost 50% of complement there inevitably have to be corners cut.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada