American Airlines Flight Attendants Voted To Strike. Here’s What That Would Look Like

American Airlines flight attendants voted 99.47% in favor of a strike, with 93% of union members voting.

The union has said they are demanding 35% raises, up to $95 per hour plus 6% annual bumps and additional increases based on what pilots are given. They aren’t going to get this. They aren’t going to strike right away. And when the time comes for a job action it won’t be a full strike, either.

  • Under the law, they first need the National Mediation Board to release them from negotiations. There’s a 30 day “cooling off” period. Then and only then can they legally strike (but they do not have to do so). They’re only just at the start of mediation.

  • No contract agreement is really possible until after fall union elections. Anything that the union agrees to that’s remotely within the ballpark of what the company will offer is going to be viewed as a failure by a significant portion of rank and file members.

    Agreeing to a contract now would undermine union officer re-elections. Once re-elected, they’re in a stronger position to agree to something that many members won’t like, but that will make those members better off.

  • The union took a strike vote for leverage, even though they cannot yet strike. If they the airline and union doesn’t come to an agreement they will do targeted job actions, not a full strike.

An agreement is very possible. When the union asked for the mediator in the spring, they reported to flight attendants that negotiations were going well (discussions with the company has been “productive” and they have “worked through many issues.”). And at the end of July, airline CEO Robert Isom committed to top of industry wages for flight attendants at an internal meeting:

However, if there’s no agreement, this is a weak union and that dictates its strategies. American’s flight attendants don’t have as much leverage as pilots did. Their members don’t have the cash reserves to sit out work, the union lacks a big reserve. Often derided as a company union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants even agreed in negotiations to help the company track down and fire crewmembers who sell their job duties. There are reports that union officials have engaged in the practice themselves.

As a result, actually going on strike where all flight attendants walk off the job isn’t the most likely scenario. In fact, the union is suggesting to flight attendants that we won’t see a traditional strike. They’re framing alternative tactics as ‘more effective.’

A strike, otherwise known as ‘self-help’, can take on many forms. A traditional strike includes all workers walking off the job, however intermittent strikes targeting certain flights provide management with less certainty and have proven more effective.

We’re more likely to see specific flights targeted on specific days, rather than an all-out strike. That keeps most flight attendants working most of the time. Flight attendants don’t have to sacrifice pay in order to gain leverage (unless the company locks them out). It minimizes the financial harm that flight attendants have to go through from a strike. It’s a way of creating uncertainty, leading customers to choose not to book American Airlines, while still paying bills.

Rival flight attendants union AFA-CWA calls the strategy CHAOS, or “Create Havoc Around Our System.” It’s also a media strategy, generating coverage of the uncertainty.

It’s more likely that flight attendants will strike out against specific flights on specific dates, rather than engaging in an all-out strike. But this won’t happen right away, even though flight attendants voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. This simply makes a strike threat appear credible, even though many don’t actually want to strike. The threat to strike is made in the hopes of making an actual strike less likely, by pressuring the company to deal.

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. If a strike means the FA will decline to perform essential duties, how do we tell that from business as usual?

  2. @Tom. Slow clap……..
    Every day my decision to dump American as my primary carrier is reinforced.

  3. Because of uncertainty for American flights, it sounds like people should travel on other carriers out of an abundance of caution.

  4. @Tom…once a F/A boards the plane they are actually required by law to carry out their safety and security functions. That is a fire-able offense if they don’t. The service portion can be considered insubordination if they don’t provide the required minimum food service catered (if catering hasn’t screwed that up) for the flight. If the Captain has them sit down for forecasted turbulence, that takes precedence. As far the hit and miss strikes, if a F/A chooses during self help to not board the plane, then a standby will called out if available from the airport. These are far and few between. Next option is a reserve F/A will be called from home which is a 2 hour wait. If they can’t find a reserve F/A and flight is staffed with less than the FAA required minimum flight crew then the flight will be cancelled.

  5. AA used to have some of the best (and in some cases still do) but then UScareway took over. Time to clean house. NWA did it years ago and why DL became good, now that DL is running the show, they are “getting you there. . maybe” once again.

  6. FA’s, like any profession deserve to have some good clauses to their contract. They are people at the end of the day.

    But $95/h to sit in a chair and wait for the next task to be done? Ya, that’s a bit much and I agree that $95/h is not gonna happen.

    What they really want is better QOL benefits. flexibility and such.

  7. @sunviking82 there was a time when US FAs were some of the very best in the business, but that was longer before the America West acquisition when US was mostly an east coast airline. The issue is not individual FAs. The issue is a culture at AA that is not focused on the customer. That culture is a cancer metastasizing through the company, creating what we have today.

    I hope the FAs do go on strike. And, I hope it brings AA to its knees, forcing a day of reckoning where AA needs to define very clearly if it intends to be a brand focused on doing the bare minimum to get people from Point A to Point B or if it is going to offered a consistent, branded, reliable EXPERIENCE (if not operation).

    Maybe then AA will realize that some of us are flying as much as we did before COVID…we’re just not flying AA.

  8. How about lock out the union. There are tens of thousands of eager new workers that would be happy to be a FA, not act bitter, bored, disgruntled and angry all the time. Short term pain for AA, but you’d set the table for an amazing turnaround in service level, lower costs, and operational performance.

  9. For those of you who aren’t familiar with a FA’s pay scale, the $95 an hour is for top pay flight attendants. Top pay is around the 13 year mark. Pay only includes hours flown. Flight attendants are not paid for boarding, the entire hour they are signed in beforehand, delays, sit times, etc etc. You can work up to 14 hours in a day and only be paid for 5 hours for that entire day. Not complaining, just explaining. So while it seems like it’s a lot of pay per hour, a flight attendant’s pay is not indicative of a normal 9-5 pay scale. Something to keep in mind.

    It’s unfortunate that some of you have had negative experiences with flight crews. There are a lot of flight attendants who very much take pride in our jobs and also care about the passenger’s experience as well.

    Without a contract since 2019, the majority of flight crews are looking for wages to help combat inflation and better work rules to improve quality of life. These are requirements that I would hope most workers are granted, regardless of what field you are in.

  10. Spot on Tom! Best comment in the month of August. Bravo.
    Oh, by the way, do you think there is a chance for another 6% for responding to a customer’s Good Morning greeting? Or when a customer says Thank You as they exit the flight, maybe a Your Welcome, or Have a nice day, or even a friendly smile and nod? Anything…?

  11. @ KP – there are many great flight attendants. The comments here are over generalizations and stereotypes, which is grossly unfair to professionals like you.

  12. Can the contract include

    – PDB in FC is a requirement. Not an option based on the FA mood on that day.
    – Taking peoples coats and jackets in FC in a timely manner is a requirement. Not an option based on the FA mood on that day.
    – Walking the aisle on a semi regular basis is a requirement. Not an option based on the FA mood on that day.

  13. $95 per hour to park their a@@es on a jump seat and wait for something to happen. Most nurses earn less than half of this. Most teachers, police, fire, EMS earn less than half of this. You’ll excuse me if I am unsympathetic to a group that have better pay and benefits than professions that actually deal with safety issues every day they come to work.

    @KP, I’m unsympathetic to the no-pay during boarding issue. The FAs have never asked their unions to negotiate this as a part of their contract. It was not until DL started paying their (non-unionized) FAs for boarding that this even became an issue.

    What I am seeing is an entire profession of whiny snowflakes that want to earn more to do less. I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works. And, let’s be clear, the FAs are not really here for my safety. If there is a medical emergency they ask for medical professionals to assist or radio MedAssist. If there is a need to evacuate there will no be a need to tell me twice to get the hell out. If there are other passengers that require assistance, the kindness and generosity of other passengers like me will kick in and we’ll make sure we help those people evacuate.

  14. The look on Isom’s face after he answered he would agree to an ‘industry-leading contract’ is priceless. Pondering ‘What the eff did I just say?’.

  15. @SOBER ER DIC….how much do you think flight attendants earn per year if you think they are paid twice as much as nurses, police, fire and EMS?

  16. Gary. At the end of the year you should have the best comments of the year award. Tom should be in running for the top prize!

  17. So Gary, what percentage of a pilot’s pay are they asking for? 20%? 25? You’re kicking out numbers without any context. Sure, a maximum of $95 an hour is a lot if you’re working 40+ hours a week but not so much if you’re doing around 20. It looks like you’re taking potshots at the FA’s instead of explaining what it is they’re really asking for.

    As to the union being crappy, no argument from me.

  18. @Flyer1 first…please spell my name correctly. Your attempt at being snarky just makes you look petty and simple.

    As for what FAs make…that is not really my concern. They chose the job knowing the compensation model and the salary. If they are not happy with it they should change careers or employers (since Delta pays its employees for boarding time).

    It’s easy to default to how overworked and underpaid FAs are, but who do you think is going to bear the burden of all these raises? Certainly not AA, it’ll be the flying passengers through higher fares. This kind of obscene wage inflation only exacerbates inflationary pressures on our economy.

    Every employee deserves to be compensated FAIRLY and commensurate with the role and expectations. There is no way in hell a group of employees who deliver inconsistent work product on an airline delivering inconsistent service deserve a 35% across-the-board raise. Every metric of service and performance at AA is in toilet. So I suppose we are supposed to reward crap performance just because a union sees the opportunity for a money grab?

    I’d get behind paying employees at McDonald’s and Target $95/hr before I’d ever get behind paying a FA $95 to sit around and buff their nails waiting for emergency to happen while grousing at providing anything above and beyond that.

  19. @SOBE ER DOC – That’s really what you’ve got?

    You say something is not your concern but you read about it and then comment in detail?

    Your assertion that somebody (not you of course) should take the brunt of wage inflation and FA’s should get the worst of it when many don’t earn a living wage is a rich person’s response.

    Inconsistent service could specifically be addressed by making the raises contingent on higher standards of service.

    Your statement shows that either you don’t fly much, are severely over entitled, get impossibly bad luck on your FA’s, or some combination thereof.

    Your earlier statement is correct: you are unsympathetic. You’re right in some areas but not even close on this.

  20. AA’s flight attendants have been on strike for the past 20 or so years. Flying on AA now offers a comparable experience to riding on a city bus.

  21. @Christian you know NOTHING about me, including my salary, so don’t assume my position is based on my presumed wealth.

    Compensation should be based on the job and its requirements, not because a union thinks it can do a money grab. And @Christian you should know I am pro-union and grew up in a union household. But being pro-union does not mean I agree with everything every union does.

    You’ll recall, the union demanding 35% raises is the same one who lobbied the FAA to reduce service so they could do even less. They don’t give a s@it about safety or service, only lining their own pockets.

    And…regarding the living wage argument, that’s total BS. No one held a gun to their heads and told them to become FAs. If they can’t live off the pay they should find a job that enables them to afford what they need and want in life. The victim argument is getting really old.

  22. $95 dollars an hour for a flight attendant is a good laugh! As SOBE ER DOC notes, nurses in hospitals are earning around 45-50 dollars an hour in a profession which the training has taken at least four years to achieve RN status. That being said, if the wage does go to $95 dollars, we might find the quality of health care in the air to take a massive leap as airlines could require additional qualifications added to the hiring process 😉

  23. When the merger occurred they should have voted the old US union AFA association they are larger have better negotiating experience and in just size wise are a much larger and effective union . It saddenes me to see some of these rude comments. $ 95 hour to sit on their asses? Hardly and if all you think a flight attendant does is evacuate an aircraft well you are way off. I hope you never have a medical emergency inflight and if you’re gonna have a heart attack a traveling day will greatly increase due to your unhealthy lifestyle. So then the flight attendant gets to save your fat ass with CPR and a difibulater. If you are a regional flight attendant American Eagle 15 hour duty days only payed hiring avg 22 hr up to 8 legs(flights) per day 10 hr overnights buy the time you take van to hotel and back 2 hrs gone 8 hours at hotel. All to deal with fat privileged spoiled man babies and airport Karen’s I always taught new crew members a simple smile goes along way to start off right. Fly safe and fly with the golden rule of life.

  24. **Also the very first Americans to loose their lives on Sept 11 were United and American Airlines Flight Attendants by having their throats cut open and stabbed to death by box cutters. They deserve a whole heck of a lot more respect then they get

  25. As an EMPLOYEE, you are worth what you or your union can negotiate . . . neither a penny more nor a penny less.

  26. Hoover
    A lot of people died on 9/11 and your attitude only reinforces why we see flight attendants as worthless.

  27. Hey Gary,
    Those flight attendants at American will get every dime they’re asking for. Without them, planes don’t move! They can shut American down for months. You are such a hater, you’re articles are always negative. You act as if you’re all knowing about negotiations, I hope the flight attendants at American get everything they deserve!

  28. The passengers won’t go anywhere without minimum crew, they will sit at the airport. A strike during the holidays would be catastrophic for American because, without flight attendants, their passengers don’t make it to grandma’s house for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I know American has heard the FAs loud and clear because I’m sure the bookings are plummeting already.

  29. Ashley
    And this will force AA to downsize or hopefully lockout and replace their flight attendants. Maybe when you’re out of a job and after you suck the unemployment benefits dry, you can tell the customers at your next job (Walmart) that you’re only there for their safety then refuse to help them with anything….or better yet, just go back to playing on your phone and completely ignore them!

  30. Chris
    Yes because I’m sure AA can train 26,000 employees overnight and have them on the line ready to listen to your whining in time for the holidays. Please use your brain. We will shut it down at Christmas, we will get our contract, you’ll whine about it some more, and then you will deal.

  31. Ashley
    The best Christmas gift would be for you to be replaced. Sure it would be a few months of chaos but it would set the airline on good footing for a new beginning. They will be better off without the lazy, disgruntled employees such as yourself who have unrealistic expectations and an over-inflated sense of self importance. AA flight attendants have destroyed AA. The traveling public would be better off without them.
    As for me, I consciously try to avoid AA because of terrible employees like you who add absolutely nothing to the flying experience. Unfortunately,
    I still manage to fly them enough to make it to Platinum Pro. Let’s all hope for a leaner AA with new and eager employees. Please strike!!!

  32. @CHRIS
    I guess i am assuming that you are the U.S congress and a presidential signature all rolled into one with your “status” and uneducated comment. You must have the power to re write the federal laws. May i remind you that it’s called the “railway labour act” that’s why it is that old! as for your comment of all of us being replaced well good luck on that ! the law also an act of congress was changed years ago. Replacement workers can only work during the strike and are no longer permanent ! So good luck on replacing any of us and any U.S carrier union employees by the way. Maybe in your entitled Platinum pro brain you can have Singapore Girl fly you around the U.S system. Good Luck

  33. if they want $95 an hour let them go to medical school and become a doctor because they do not have the education to be paid $95 an hour.

    I know nurses who get paid less, do more work and are nicer. Even the people at the DMV do more work then many FA.

  34. Again, for those who don’t seem to get a flight attendant’s pay: we are not paid like nurses or doctors. We are only paid for hours flown. This means you can work a 13 hour day but only walk away with 5 hours of pay. Legally, we aren’t supposed to fly more than 30 hours in 7 days, so we aren’t working 40 hours a week. Again, I repeat, we do not work 40 hours a week. A full time schedule for flying is 80 hours a month.

    So no, asking $95 an hour for TOP PAY flight attendants does not equate the same as a nurses or doctors salary. And the $95 that’s being asked for is only when you’ve been with the company for 13+ years. Otherwise, you will be making less.

    Please do your research before attributing misleading information. Most flight attendants work 15-20 hours max during a week. Not 40 hours. And again, we are only paid for hours flown. We are not salary based and therefore not on a 9-5 pay scale. Again, not complaining but I’m explaining.

    @Frank and @Jake: thank you so much for your kind words. They are much appreciated. The world can surely use more kindness!

  35. So just to recap: People who refuse to provide the slightest bit of hospitality onboard AA flights because “We’re only here f̶o̶r̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶s̶a̶f̶e̶t̶y̶ to completely ignore you” now want to be paid $95/hr. L. O. L.

  36. I find it interesting that the FA’s only talk about the hours and the pay and will not address the fact that the service they provide is sub par. How much is the ‘Singapore Girl’ paid? They provide exceptional service.

  37. Here Gary goes again obsessing over flight attendants. Please take into consideration that while AA just announced record profits, flight attendants are struggling to pay rent. I’m not sure what flight attendant rejected you, but it’s not a good look to continuously bash a profession that ultimately is one of the reasons you are able to get to your destination safely. Also please consider that if you’ve had bad experiences with all of the flight attendants you encounter, YOU are most definitely the problem.

  38. Oh Gary must have tried to date a flight attendant….Tiff even says so!
    This is another example of why the DOT needs to stop approving mergers. It results in less competition and then when the children start banging their drums every few years, there are fewer and fewer competitors to pick up the slack. Let individual companies fail, which will lay off ALL of their employees (which somehow flight attendants think is better), liquidate and then start anew. B6 and NK should ABSOLUTELY NOT be allowed to merge just like NW/DL, US/AA or UA/CO shouldn’t have. Consumers need MORE choice not less so that when these shenanigans happen, nobody cares.

  39. Yes, you fly to Paris for free even though you worked your way over there. Then you get to stay in a fine hotel for free and are allotted money for food while you are on a layover. Don’t forget to see the sights during your time in Paris because the company paid you to do that. The majority of the time a flight attendant is sitting in the galley or on a break somewhere. You see them during a meal or beverage service. Quit your job and give it to someone who is grateful to have the benefits of being a flight attendant. Oh, you also get to fly for free on American Airlines anywhere in the world.

  40. Firstly, I don’t know what current FA pay is and the comments in this feed are just people arguing with each other. I agree that a FA is only compensated for half I’d their duty. They should be compensated from the time they reach their duty station, much the same as clocking in and out. As for FAs that just sit on the rears, I find this highly offensive. As a frequent flyer that is blind and travels with a service dog, I have always found that flight attendants bend over backwards to make sure I’m always safe and comfortable. Every time that little ding goes off for FA assistances (I remember some flights that sounded like a Las Vegas casino), FAs got up during even the most turbulent flights. But those days are gone. Ever since real meal service has gone away (not the FAs fault), we rarely see a FA offering a pillow or blanket. I’m blessed to live in Georgia where I fly Delta so I get amazing service. But I’m sure AA frequently flyers do as well. I don’t think the union is fighting for the right thing. They should be fighting for hours compensated, not pay rate.

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