Airline demand has recovered very nicely post-pandemic, as airlines are largely reporting record revenue. This success is a bit of a double-edged sword for airlines, as many airline work groups are also looking for huge raises.
We’ve heard a lot about American’s negotiations with its pilots. American’s CEO has promised a contract that could see pilots earning up to $590K per year, though pilots have nonetheless voted to authorize a strike.
But American is similarly having issues negotiating a new contract with flight attendants, which now has an interesting update.
American flight attendant union bargaining update
American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) have been in negotiations for a new contract for quite some time.
After years of not getting a new contract, the union is demanding huge pay raises. For example, one proposal demands an immediate 35% pay increase, with 6% annual pay increases in subsequent years. That’s only part of the equation, as flight attendants also want boarding pay, increased pay for working international flights and premium cabins, and more.
The union has now issued a “bargaining update,” which contains some interesting information. The union claims that it’s in the “advanced stages of bargaining.” The union filed mediation on March 3, 2023, and the federal mediators will join the bargaining at the end of June 2023. In the meantime, the union is continuing to negotiate with management.
The union tells members that “we must collectively fight for what we deserve.” While we’re not seeing a strike authorization vote yet, the union warns that this could happen:
We want to advise all Flight Attendants that we will take all steps necessary to reach an agreement, including taking a strike vote if necessary. We have passed our economic proposals to the company, have bargained over all sections of the agreement, and will continue to negotiate on all unresolved open issues. We will keep the pressure on the company and fight for an agreement.
The timing of any strike vote is important. To be considered seriously by management, the National Mediation Board, and the press, a strike vote must be timed for maximum effectiveness. For this reason, any decision to take a strike vote will be considered after we have had a chance to engage in our statutory mediation process.
Keep in mind that even if flight attendants did vote to authorize a strike, they’d need to follow the procedures of the Railway Labor Act, which includes going to the National Mediation Board, in hopes of coming to a resolution. A strike would only (eventually) be permitted if that process fails. Even then it wouldn’t be imminent, as there would first be a 30-day cooling off period before a strike could occur.
It seems highly unlikely that we’ll actually see a strike, and if we do, it will almost certainly be in several months, in late summer at the earliest.
I’m curious about the outcome of these negotiations
Let me start by saying that I think flight attendants work hard while not being paid particularly well. I wouldn’t last a week as a flight attendant, because I’d lose my patience with the traveling public.
Here’s my take on these negotiations:
- I mean, I can’t blame flight attendants for wanting more pay, and for negotiating for as much as money as they can… who doesn’t want a raise?
- The fundamental issue with flight attendant negotiations vs. pilot negotiations is that there’s a pilot shortage, while there seems to be a never-ending pool of people who want to become flight attendants (which airlines always highlight, by claiming that getting hired as a flight attendant is more selective than getting into an Ivy League)
- Even if there’s not a flight attendant shortage, the issue is that all the flight attendants belong to one union, so collectively they have quite a bit of bargaining power
It seems that the US airline industry has now normalized 30-40% pay increases for pilots, and that just is what it is. We haven’t really seen any airline set the same precedent with flight attendants, so we’ll see what happens there. I imagine all airlines are trying to hold out on offering huge raises, because if one airline does it, other airlines will likely have to follow.
American Airlines is currently negotiating a new contract with its flight attendants, which has been going on for quite some time. The two parties are way off in terms of what they’re willing to accept, with flight attendants wanting 50%+ pay raises over the next few years, and management not being willing to offer that much.
The union has now warned flight attendants that a strike authorization vote is on the table. If this does happen, it’ll likely be several months down the road.
We don’t often see strikes, though who knows, maybe this could eventually lead to one. Flight attendants are seeing the huge pay raises that pilots are getting, and understandably want in on the action. Management probably doesn’t view the demands of flight attendants as seriously as those of pilots, given the pilot shortage, and how hard it is to train new pilots.
How do you see these negotiations going between American management and flight attendants?