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American's Relations With Flight Attendants Come To A Head Today – View from the Wing

American’s Relations With Flight Attendants Come To A Head Today

Relations with American Airlines flight attendants are about to come to a head. The company has committed to delivering an economic proposal to the cabin crew’s union by the end of the day. It is not going to meet their demands.

American Airlines flight attendants have been without a new contract for years. The airline got a deal done with its pilots, and then upped pilot pay again because pilots elsewhere were getting better deals. They did a lucrative deal with mechanics, who effectively shut down the carrier’s operation in summer 2019. But there’s been little movement on a new agreement with cabin crew.. until now.

  • American has pledged to offer a competitive contract that matches other major airlines
  • Flight attendants have demanded a contract that is top of the industry
  • And cabin crew voted nearly unanimously to give their union leaders the right to strike, if and when the federal government allows it

The union’s wage ask is significant, 35% raises up to $95 per hour. The company isn’t going to agree to that, but the employees won’t back off of that in advance of fall union elections.

Fortunately, despite 99.47% of ballots in favor of a strike, with 93% of union members voting,

  • The federal mediation process has only just begin, and no strike of any kind can legally occur into the National Mediation Board releases the parties to ‘self help’ (a strike, or a lockout).
  • If ‘self help’ does come, the union has told its members that they aren’t likely to do a full scale walkout shutting down the airline. Instead they will target certain routes on certain days creating uncertainty for the company and for customers, degrading the sense of the airline’s reliability, and pushing people to book elsewhere.

The union is weak, and lacks financial reserves. Flight attendants, on average, don’t have the financial wherewithal to go without pay during a long job action. So simply walking off of certain flights allows almost all employees to take home full pay while imposing costs on the company.

The message to flight attendants – now, before union elections – is “We are fighting for an industry-leading contract and are willing to do what it takes to get an agreement” But the company has said they’ll deliver a contract that is equal to the top of the industry, not one that leads it. So they’ll be at a temporary impasse.

My bet is that we’ll get to a union leadership that’s in a place to compromise, declare victory, and recommend a contract to its members (without immediately jeopardizing their jobs) before we get to a strike. But there are crewmembers engaged in intentionally limited service on board as part of their own, unsanctioned efforts against the company.


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