February 23, 2024
Flight attendants do not receive hourly wages until the plane's doors close. here's why


American Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), picketed outside Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, last August.

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American Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), picketed outside Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, last August.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

If air travel seems unusually burdensome to you these days, you have your back.

Flight attendants are frustrated with full flights and short staffing. He says managing passenger safety and the onboard experience is more stressful than ever. Now, flight attendants are hoping airlines make a big change in the way they pay them.

Even frequent travelers may not realize that on most airlines, flight attendants are not taking paid time off until you hear the words “plane doors now closed.” Are done.”

It’s a long-standing practice that flight attendants want change.

On Tuesday, with contract negotiations underway at several airlines, flight attendants will hold pickets at dozens of airports across the U.S. to bring attention to that demand and others.

It’s not as easy to punch in and punch out

“We have a lot of time off in unpaid days,” says Julie Hedrick, an American Airlines flight attendant and president of the flight attendant union Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

How American unions took off

That unpaid time – which can be five or six hours a day – includes all the hours flight attendants spend in airports, waiting for their next flight, as well as getting people and their bags onto the plane and into their proper places. But all time taken for delivery is also included. Places.

“This is our most chaotic and hardest time of the day, and we may be doing four to five boardings per day,” Hedrick says.

Airlines say time spent on the ground is compensated

Airlines argue that hours spent on the ground are actually compensated. In a statement on its website, Alaska Airlines says, “Contrary to union narratives, we pay flight attendants for boarding time through a payment mechanism that was negotiated with the union in previous contract cycles. “

Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the union that represents flight attendants at Alaska, United and several other airlines, says the “pay mechanism” is a guaranteed minimum wage.

Why are auto workers demanding 46% salary hike?

A very common formula, says Nelson, is a guarantee of one hour of paid flight time for every two hours on duty.

A simple example: If a flight attendant arrives at the airport early in the morning for her first flight and ends her day 12 hours later, she is guaranteed six hours of pay, even if she is in the air for six hours. Don’t be.

“He doesn’t fly anymore because of changes in his flight patterns,” says Nelson.

Not only are flights often sold out, but planes are also designed to fill more seats. The number of uncontrolled passengers is increasing. Since September 11, 2001, flight attendants have served as the last line of defense in aviation security.

“These are important duties that we have to perform in addition to keeping everyone on board calm,” says Nelson, pointing to a recent emergency on an Alaska flight, when a panel flew off the plane, leaving an empty The place was made.

According to the Department of Labor, flight attendants earn about $38,000 per year on the low end and about $100,000 per year on the high end.

“First-year flight attendants, you’re really getting close to the state minimum wage,” says Nelson.

CHAOS flight attendant

Half payment for boarding time in Delta

There is one major airline that pays flight attendants for boarding time. In 2022, Delta began paying its flight attendants half the hourly rate for 40 to 50-minute boardings, Depends on the type of plane and where it’s going. Notably, Delta is the only major US airline whose flight attendants are not unionized, and some saw the move as an attempt by the airline to discourage unionization.

APFA President Hedrick says the union representing American and its flight attendants has now agreed to the same boarding pay as Delta, but the union is still pushing for other issues.

“Sure, we all think we should be paid for the minute we go from the time we go to work to the time we go home, but we have to look at the whole package,” she says.

APFA is pushing for an immediate 33% increase. In its latest proposal, American offered one-third.

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Under federal law, flight attendants cannot strike without permission from the federal government. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants says contract negotiations have reached an impasse and flight attendants should be allowed to strike.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

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toggle caption

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

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Under federal law, flight attendants cannot strike without permission from the federal government. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants says contract negotiations have reached an impasse and flight attendants should be allowed to strike.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Permission to strike is not easily obtained

While flight attendants are expected to make some noise about these issues at Tuesday’s protest, don’t expect a strike in the near future. Under federal law, it is illegal for airline employees to strike unless they receive permission from the federal government.

American flight attendants had last sought permission and been rejected, a disappointment for Heydrich given the wave of labor actions the previous year.

She says, “The UAW, the UPS, the Writers Guild, the Actors Guild – and it’s not that they’ve all gone on strike, but they’ve made it to that point, and they’re able to get the contracts they deserve. Are.” ,

APFA has once again asked federal arbitrators to declare an impasse in contract negotiations at American Airlines, clearing the way for a strike. The union will present its case to federal officials in Washington next month.

At present, contract negotiations are ongoing. The airlines say they have offered the flight attendants competitive wages and benefits and are eager to reach an agreement.

Source: www.npr.org

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