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. AA flight attendants already make it clear that they despise passengers. They just want prices to go up more so they fly empty planes?

    AA should just stick to cargo.

  2. If I’m AA, I’d send the head of the union a reply email that simply has a gif of Charlie Murphy laughing during the “Prince” skit on Chapelle’s Show.

  3. It seems to me with a pretty generous offer out there to AA pilots, there’s going to be little to nothing left for FAs.

  4. I say let’s give the FAs this raise, run the airline into insolvency, and then shut down this airline for good. AA sucks, even compared to the general level of suckage of US airlines.

  5. Here you go again with your anti-union rhetoric and republican talking points… good thing I have my ad blocker enabled 🙂

  6. I thought today was April Fools day, had to check today’s date. This will NEVER happen! They will be lucky to still have jobs and take a 3.5% raise if they are lucky! This is a BROKE company! Good luck to all that work there!

  7. There’s no shortage of pilots applying for the majors, that problem exists only at the regionals. The flight attendants have just as much bargaining power. Quite frankly, with how low the inflight service has been rated, you’d think management would want to invest in improving the flight attendant contracts to attract better talent

  8. Who wants to fly an airline with well-paid pilots and flight attendants? Unacceptable! From now on, I’m only using NetJets. lol

  9. Flight attendants have as much bargaining power. Pilots may fly the plane but without a flight attendants onboard planes can go anywhere. You can’t even board a plane without minimum amount of flight attendants. I once fle for AA as an fa and pilots are only qualified to do one thing and that’s fly. The intelligence and everything else is not there

  10. UA/AFA is actually rightfully asking for more than APFA! You clearly don’t do your research. Just babble, babble.

  11. FAs deserve better pay than pilots, relative to their peers. Pilots have virtually no impact on the passenger experience assuming everyone arrives. A good pilot versus a slightly better pilot means nothing for passengers. However a marginally better or worse FA makes all the difference for passenger experience. This isnt Top Gun, instead of racing to pay the “best” pilots, pay the best flight attendants (under the condition you can fire the bad ones).

  12. I’m very passionate about working aviation but I’m also very passionate about putting food on the table and paying for rent. Stick to your travel reviews and leave your anti-union view out.

  13. @LRon – “A good pilot versus a slightly better pilot means nothing for passengers.”

    Paging Captain Sully, the passengers of US 1549 are still in the Hudson

    Ultimately pilots aren’t paid on quality, of course. They’re paid collectively because they are scarce, difficult to replace, and can damage an airline in ways flight attendants can’t to the same degree.

  14. This site used to have a lot more quality content, specifically about reviews of products and decent analysis. In the last year or two, it’s seemed to be shifting more to hot takes and clickbait-ish articles.

  15. @Ben – flight attendants don’t have the same ability to reject an aircraft or slow down an operation, and flight attendants are more easily replaced and don’t take nearly as much training once they do

  16. @Gary, that is why I said “assuming everyone arrives.” Captain Sully was an outlier. Plenty of Captain Others whose experience didn’t help avert a catastrophic situation, and in many cases caused it themselves through pilot error.

  17. Fleet Service demands Pilots & Flight Attendents load and cater the planes and we’ll push them for $100k raise!

  18. You do realize flight attendants are people, not robots, no? People deserving of decent working conditions and a livable wage?

    The privilege exhibited in this article is disgusting.

    FWIW, I’m a “real” professional – not a member of the profession you openly disdain. But then again, ensuring your safety during air travel – or, God forbid, a crash – isn’t that a big deal, is it?

  19. inflation since the last contract is around 20%, and with straight reserve that $41 starting pay is still less than $40k a year while living in some of the most expensive cities in the country. The me too clauses are not used on pay, they are based on smaller items that are mostly connected anyway. Of course you are correct that pilots have more bargaining power, and they will be getting a much larger increase in pay percentage as well as actual pay. But this article is not very balanced or reasonable at all.

  20. We flew Southwest for the first time last week, and were in shock that the FAs were friendly. Friendly! How can that be, American FAs? Why didn’t they treat the self loading cargo like garbage as you do? It’s almost like they didn’t hate us by default. And yet you all want raises? How about doing something to earn raises, like focusing on making the inhumane experience of flying a little better for the passengers? Nah. Too hard for you, clearly.

  21. Flight Attendants are easily replaceable if they strike. I worked as a Manager for an airline where flight attendants chose to strike. I received about 3 days of emergency situation training and was summoned to replace striking flight attendants. Passengers loved us..

  22. Pilots get 600k and y’all are mad at basically a cost of living raise for people who are there to save your life. We will all be laughing Gary when we get even more when we match DL and UA pay scales so pathetic.

  23. @Tom I’m pretty sure there are a lot more FA’s than FA managers. AA has strikes in the past and FA’s have more leverage than ever.

  24. Well Gary your choice of the word (Demand) is quite a bit different than a proposal. Demand makes it sound like the union stormed into Isom’s office shaking their fists in his face with their “demands”. But of course I realize using that word is like throwing red meat to the many posters on your blog that loathe all flight attendants (especially AA).
    I received the email from APFA and not once did I see the word “demand”. I would encourage you to be a bit more circumspect in your choice of words.

  25. The sad truth is that they’re a lot more disposable than pilots and since there’s no shortage of new hires, the more they can get to quit off the top the better. Just ask an AA SFO FA how they feel. FAs have a s***y customer service job, I feel for them, but yeah. Takes the company inordinate amounts of $ to train and retain pilots. And they can really gum up an operation. Takes nice FAs to keep pax happy, but they’ve got new hires on a production line to keep staffing up. Rough business.

  26. New flight attendant to pilot: “How long was your new hire training? Mine was four weeks.”
    Pilot: “About seven weeks.”
    Flight Attendant: “What! Only three more weeks. I should have been a pilot!”

  27. Poor, poor, poor American Airlines Flight Attendants…they’re just a bunch of unfortunate victims…

  28. @tom…must have been outside the US. FAA hasn’t allowed less than 10 days for safety/security training in years.

  29. I was an AA Flight Attendant for 16 years. I am saddened to hear that they could be close to striking. I was on the picket line in 1993, scared to death for my future. We didn’t get a great contract out of that and it cause lots of dissension within. AA does not see FA’s as being as important as the pilots. Never have, never will. Unfortunately, the FA’s think they are irreplaceable and aren’t staying in the profession for the right reasons. I loved my job and usually worked first class so I could have fun and enjoy myself. In coach I was told I talked to much which slowed the service down. They wanted to get back to their seats, books, etc. It is nothing like it used to be. The unions have created a safe space for crappy employees.

  30. @Steve
    So what verb would you use? Proposal is not a verb, in case you forgot your elementary school lessons.

  31. @LRon
    Are these FAs the same as the ones Sara Nelson says are the “last line of defense”?
    For the United flight where a man tried to open the emergency exit and passengers restrained him:

    “Aviation’s first responders are charged with the safety of everyone onboard,” Nelson said. “When incidents like this happen, it not only risks the safety of the crew involved, it takes away from flight attendants’ ability to respond to medical, safety, or security emergencies.” Nelson said. “It puts everyone at risk and there’s zero tolerance for that.”

    Sara Nelson says incidents like this take away from FAs ability to respond to emergencies. Does she mean they shouldn’t have responded to this because …
    Obviously she misspoke as she really doesn’t think FAs do anything for safety. “Last” in the phrase “last line of defense” must mean slowest, not to be used as first-line.

  32. AA flight attendants took a 33% pay cut after 9/11 to “save the company” and after 23 years are still making less money than they made when 9/11 happened.

  33. @James proposal from “propose” or “to propose”

    put forward (an idea or plan) for consideration or discussion by others.

    James says:
    March 9, 2023 at 11:35 pm
    So what verb would you use? Proposal is not a verb, in case you forgot your elementary school lessons.

  34. @Bernie…what a crack up…s***y customer service job. HAAA!!!! Yeah that’s what I do. 40+ years of traveling the World and stayed that long because it’s s***y. I can guarantee you I have more degrees than you have but who cares. I wanted to stay in such a s***y job. So sorry you hate yours. You need to live a little guy. Get out of the office.

    @Ex AA…I don’t believe you were ever a flight attendant. Shows right through your comment.

    The comments on this article remind me that most of you don’t even travel. You sit at home and wish you did. It also reminds me that you manage no one in your line of work. When you want better service from people or a company these comments are not the way to achieve that. Go back to your remote control and box of Popeyes.

  35. Being a flight attendant requires no foresight in life other than waking up one day wanting to be a flight attendant and being able to lift a suitcase and show up on time. The airline will train you up in a couple months.

    Being a pilot requires substantial training, skill that must be learned, and a scientific mind. It’s not the same thing.

    These flight attendants are paid better than nurses, and nursing requires an advanced degree, extensive training, and far more responsibility. There’s a fair rate for flight attendants, and it’s not $40-$95 an hour. And I say that as someone who is generally pro-union and has been in a union before.

    And no, I’m not a nurse or a pilot.

    These demands are nuts. Pay nurses more, not flight attendants.

  36. “flight attendants don’t have the same ability to reject an aircraft or slow down an operation, and flight attendants are more easily replaced and don’t take nearly as much training once they do”
    What you think about ground crew? Especially with the misconception that they are just “baggage handlers”. They actually do a lot more and have more responsibility than a flight attendant or gate agent/ ticket agent at that.

  37. FA are expendable. Call their bluff, hire scabs. There’s millions of restaurants with friendlier, customer service focused staff who would love to upgrade for what the FA’s currently get.

    Younger and easier on the eyes in most cases too!

  38. It’s the beginning of negotiations, both sides implement a so called wish list of demands and then try to meet in the middle, this is what collective bargaining is and I’m in solidarity with any card carrying union member. it’s time organized labor begins to squeeze on all these corporations, this country needs more UNIONS! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!

  39. LMAO you people must be so miserable in your own lives and it shows in your comments.

    Gary you fly AA and FA’s read this crap … so …..

  40. Hysterically funny! And the American Airlines vortex & death spiral continues.

  41. Are you kidding me? Quaint?
    Flight attendants with less than 10 years seniority are currently quitting in droves because they cannot make ends meet with what the company pays us.
    Not only are we not paid for boarding, we are also not paid for delays of any kind. And when you factor in that most of us are working 3-4 flights in a day, that’s a lot of boardings and constant delays (sometimes of several hours) that we are working for FREE. What other job in the world expects you to work for free?
    We have not had a raise to our pay scale in over 10 years, despite incredible inflation rates. Money has been the single largest stressor in my life for the past several years and I am currently working more hours than I ever have.
    We flight attendants need to pay our rents too, you know? We are actual human beings.
    Your tone is unbelievably condescending and desrespectful. Clearly you have no idea how hard we work and how much heart we put into helping our passengers.
    I sincerely hope to never have you on one of my flights.

  42. I recall the last AA flight attendant strike in 1993. The company had informally determined that they could replace the striking flight attendants in about six weeks by only training replacements on one type of aircraft. Then POTUS stepped in and twisted AA management’s arms and AA had to give in. I wonder what would happen in similar circumstances today.

  43. @Tim….interesting. I thought Gary only flew Delta. For the rest of these yayhoos…next time you get bad service on the plane, just get up, head to the lav and take a good look in the mirror. It’s your own fault because as Tim stated, flight attendants read your comments. Most of us just laugh and realize how much you hate your own life, therefore enjoy trying to push others down to your level. Sad.

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