American Airlines Flight Attendants Demand 35% Raises ‘Plus What The Pilots Get’

American Airlines isn’t just negotiating with its pilots. They have an amendable contract with flight attendants as well, and have for years. Negotiations have progressed slowly but the Association of Professional Flight Attendants has now presented their economic proposal to the company. And as some in Dallas might say, bless their hearts?

  • 35% raises – so that starting pay goes from $30.35 per hour to $41 per hour, and the top of the scale goes up to $95 per hour – plus 6% annual raises on top of that.

  • Pay for time spent during boarding, which unions haven’t made a priority in the past because higher wages in lieu of pay during boarding benefits their most senior members. But now that non-union Delta added this without negotiations their members are jealous.

  • Premium pay for working the galley, and for night time flying.

  • Higher per diem allowances “along with a ‘me too’ clause that would see allowances increase automatically if pilots won a higher rate.”

It’s quaint that flight attendants think they have the bargaining leverage to automatically get what pilots get. Pilots are in shorter supply and can do far more to bring an airline to a halt, so have much greater leverage. That’s why pilots get better benefits.

Years ago, it became a meme in public policy discussions that you could improve any proposal by adding “that everyone would have their own pony!”

An an airline passenger, I may wish for better inflight meals and ice cream sundaes on shorter flights. But someone else can make a better proposal – better inflight meals and ice cream sundaes and Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle. And I respond well, sure, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle and a pony!

American Airlines flight attendants, for their part, have made their economic proposal better by asking for the whole farm.

There’s this strange notion of negotiations that some people have, maybe they got it from television or by reading The Art Of The Deal, that you want to start really high because you’re going to wind up meeting in the middle. The higher your opening offer, the better your final result. That’s not how any of this works.

Rather, there’s a zone of possible agreement. Flight attendant pay will be similar at the major airlines, with differences based on priorities of management and the union. Some will want slightly higher pay and more generous work rules, others will prefer stricter work rules and somewhat lower pay. But there’s a certain amount that an airline can expect to pay in terms of economic cost across all of the elements of the contract. Sometimes delay changes the economic conditions – for better or worse – and thus the expected contract cost.

Of course before even presenting their proposal to the company, the flight attendants union asked for a federal mediator, the first step in a potential strike (since the National Mediation Board has to ‘release’ a union to ‘self help’ in order to strike).

At the same time that the union is negotiating aggressively in public, I’m told that leadership actually worked closely with the airline to bring back the attendance ‘points system’ that cabin crew loathe, that penalizes employees for calling in sick. The union feared that high sick rates would mean that the company scheduled more crew to work reserve as a backup, which is bad for senior members of the union.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi all, I would love to get $40 an hour, working in hospitality like the FAs!

    I am a tour manager/Cruise director and get approx $130 a DAY for 12 to 14 hour days

    And, I have to be knowledgeable AND friendly AND SMILE ALL THE TIME: it’s like being an actor: the moment there are passengers around we are on stage/on camera, giving 100++%

    Yes I sometimes get tips, but can NEVER count on that, and yes, there are people who do not agree with tipping a “professional”… and give nothing (and that’s another story not relevant here!)
    With tips it still works out at approx $200 day = $16.66 a day for 12 hours!!!
    Most importantly, to keep being offered work I HAVE to score 9.6/10 or higher in client/passenger evaluations.

    I LOVE what I do and although I would love to receive $40/$50/$130+++ an HOUR I know that is not realistic

    FAs can probably earn more being a host/waiter, but they probably like being in different cities/countries every few days and not doing “normal” hours

    We all know that being of service is what FAs should be doing, helping the passengers have the most memorable and enjoyable flight ever, valuing that the passengers have spent hard earned money to fly on business or for pleasure!!
    How hard can it be to smile and look after us??

    Heaven forbid there is an emergency: will the smile and caring for others suddenly be switched in??

    Thanks for reading!

    Sending everyone a big smile and wishing everyone memorably wonderful journeys!

  2. The comments from the anti union scab lovers on this thread make me sick. I encourage the union to stay strong and bring this company to their knees. And to the union haters and scab lovers on this thread, I have one piece of advice: [redacted -gl]

  3. @JS
    being a flight attendant your right there’s only 7 weeks training but then you go to refresher training once a year and you deal with lots of stuff you weren’t even trained for I am a retired paramedic took 9 months of training after being a EMT for 10 yrs and being a paramedic you go to recertification every 5 yrs…. Flight attendants are paid 65 bucks per hr and will never reach the salary nurses do attendants are paid way differently we can work 15 hr days and get paid only 8 hrs of that 65 65 starts when doors close AND brakes released and ends when brakes are applied at the gate and doors open we are or can be gone for say 6 days and get paid for 21 hrs out of those 6 days gone…. We don’t get paid during boarding or deplaning…. So that 65 that may be incredible to look at does not go very far in the real world. Minimum wage went from 7.50 to 15 and most places hire here at 20 bucks and in big cities 25 per hr and are paid for every hr they are at work.. inflation has gone up 20% that 65 so asking for 35% in our world is not really that much. When we go to retrain once a year or refresher class we get paid 75 dollars for the entire 8-10 hr day we don’t get paid 65 per hr… when we sit at airports for 4-5 hrs waiting for our next sequence to start we’re not getting 65 we’re delayed with all the passengers on the plane for 2-3 hrs again we’re not getting 65……it’s a different world flying being a paramedic for 15 yrs I was at work 24 hrs I’d get paid for full 24 hrs nurses are at work 12 hrs they get paid 12 hrs or paid 1 hr there not cause of lunch and they are making much more then attendants do…. Now teachers… there’s a better story, teachers they should be getting paid more then all of us!!!

  4. Just wait til’ the THOUSANDS paroled Venezuelans/Cubans/Haitians (forgot if there’s more nationalities on the Humanitarian Parole process) begin to get their green cards. Know too many dreaming about being FA’s and I bet you they will be willing to do it, demanding way less than the longtime spoiled crews. Supply/demand adjustment courtesy of the open borders policy.

  5. They want a pay raise for serving drinks and complaining about their seats not smoothly sliding in and out of their tracks. FA’s complain more than any other career field in Aviation. They spend maybe 6 weeks in class to learn how to serve drinks and tell people to buckle their seat belts. All while aircraft mechanics spend nearly 2 years in school and are responsible for all those lives in the aircraft if they make a mistake yet, FA’s get paid more than we do. Get off your high horse, and go back to waiting tables!

  6. @Angry Mechanic

    1) yes I agree. You are definitely angry.
    2) not sure what airline you work for but last time I looked my mechanics made more than me.
    3) this leads me to believe that, like so many other commenters on here, you are not really a mechanic but playing keyboard cowboy for the day.
    4) the big 4 are all hiring. If you think we make more and it’s such an easy job then you should go for it. You might actually like it.
    5) have a great day. Buh-Bye

  7. Just because you are serving on an airplane doesn’t mean that you have a special skill set that warrants a high salary. Those skills can be taught to virtually anyone in a matter of weeks or less.

  8. Pilots want $590,000 a year meanwhile gate agents and airport employees are making poverty wages

  9. Andrew c says:
    March 10, 2023 at 7:36 pm
    Pilots want $590,000 a year meanwhile gate agents and airport employees are making poverty wages

    I say;
    Maybe Andrew could get his Batchelor degree, then spend more than 100k for flight training , then APPLY for a pilot job.

  10. @Jaimie…yes I do have a special skill set and it’s something that can’t be taught. You figure it out. Hint…Read some of the comments on this blogger’s articles.

    @Pilot Flyer…EXACTLY!!!

  11. Unfortunately all one can read in most of these comments is pure ignorance about what the job and responsibilities of a flight attendant are.
    Before you attempt to comment about anything you should really try to know the facts so you will be able to talk about it in an educated manner.. Otherwise you make a fool of yourself.

  12. Pay seems really high but the problem with flight attendant job is that your duty day can be more than 10 hours but only get paid 5 hours. Let’s say you do 4 flights a day. Those 4 boarding time which is 4 hours are unpaid. Ground time between the flight lets say from san to sfo, once you complete that flight, the time you wait for the next flight isn’t paid. So even though pay seems high, it really isn’t, especially for the junior flight attendants. It’s even worse when you are working at a regional airline.

  13. Gary, you and all your keyboard edge lord fans can dump on us and demean us if it makes you feel good. We will still save your lives if you need us to. If a fire breaks out on a plane, we will put it out. If you get injured in severe turbulence, we will dress your wounds. If the plane loses pressure, we will make sure you don’t die from hypoxia. If you think you’re having a stroke or heart attack, or if your feverish child loses consciousness, we will contact a physician on the ground and communicate with them to asses conditions – while getting you oxygen, and preparing a defibrillator if needed. If there is an emergency landing, we will get you off the plane alive, and we won’t jump down the slides until everyone of you has. Go ahead. Insult us all you want. We won’t let that stop us on the day we have to do our actual job for you. And we won’t let the insults stop us from demanding a decent salary for our work. So have at it. Nothing you hurl at us has any impact one way or the other.

  14. It is a peculiar feature of human society that we continue to amplify the ramblings of uninformed blogger journalists. Having a Platinum card and a pile of frequent flyer miles does not make one an aviation expert. It does not require years of job experience or education, but one would expect an amateur journalist or even a low level aviation geek to at least have a conversation with actual flight attendants, pilots, and other individuals who make things fly before putting their hands on the keyboard. Frankly, these articles are getting exhausting.

  15. Funny how critics like @Peter Westwood say “you’re not an expert” but never identify a single thing written here that’s incorrect, they simply *do not like* it even though it is accurate. They prefer to dismiss the feelz.

  16. I’m all for paying all airline employees a fair salary. But with that comes an expectation as a passenger that I’ll be greeted warmly and given meaningful assistance when needed, as well as feel appreciated for my loyalty. And with ticket prices continuing to rise, be given a meal during the flight that is healthy and delicious. If salaries go up and tickets get even more expensive then passengers will find alternative transportation.

  17. 35% is actually pretty low in comparison to what the union should be asking for. Inflation has increased 20% percent since the last contract expired. Duty days have also increased with longer unpaid sit times. After you account for these 2 factors, this opening proposal is pretty weak. It actually barely keeps up with inflation. This really should be what the union settles with, not start with.
To the author, pilots at the big 4 airlines actually don’t have as much leverage as you might think. All the big 4 airlines have to do is pay better than the regionals and the low cost carriers which is were the pilot shortage is doing damage. Even then, pay increases won’t fix the pilot shortage. The biggest thing stopping potential pilots from going to aviation is the cost. Until airlines start paying for flight school from beginning to end, people simply are not going to take the risk of becoming a commercial pilot. On the other hand, most flight attendants at mainline have college degrees and other skill sets which they could use. In fact, a large percentage choose being a flight attendant as a second carrier. Considering flight attendants make about what a school teacher makes, there isn’t really much keeping new hires around. Certainly not enough to cover turnover at a cost efficient rate. So yes, 35% is minimum that flight attendant unions should accept.

  18. As a retired AA employee of 24 years. I traveled as a commuter for 3 years and being a ground agent I got to see first hand all of what flight attendants do. Being in customer service only gives us a glimpse of what FA’s actually do. I have an enormous amount of respect for their job as they not only have to provide a beverage /meal service to the spoiled and privileged getting verbally abused by our ignorant and mentally unstable passengers… they have to provide safety and medical tasks when warranted. Give them a pay raise before the law changes and you have to be mentally cleared to fly.

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