American Airlines Offers Flight Attendants Boarding Pay And Delta-Level Wages

American Airlines presented its contract proposal to flight attendants and the terms basically match watch Delta gets, according to the union. But they aren’t happy.

  • 11% wage increase “which matches the current Delta rates, which have a top rate of $76 per hour.”

  • 2% increases in each of the remaining years of the 5 year agreement

  • Boarding pay at 50% rates.

  • Increased profit sharing, participating in a pool made up of 10% of profits up to $2.5 billion and 20% above that (American earned $803 million in 2022 and reduced its third quarter earnings guidance). The definition of the profit sharing pool matches Delta’s, but American Airlines earns less profit so flight attendants will see less income.

  • Increased retirement contributions, doubled training pay

This is basically what I expected, because airline CEO Robert Isom committed to match top of the industry pay. United’s flight attendants are still in negotiations.

Yet the union says “we are far apart on wages.” As I’ve written, the union can’t accept a contract that’s going to disappoint members – after asking for 35% wage increases up to $95 per hour and 6% annual increases in future years – because there are fall elections approaching. Once those happen, and union leaders don’t have their jobs at immediate risk, they can bargain productively.

The company’s proposal is significant – not just for wage increases to match Delta (American can’t really pay more than competitors, since it doesn’t make more than competitors) but also because it matches Delta’s revolutionary move to offer boarding pay.

Traditionally, wages are higher for time flying to account for not calculating pay to include boarding time. That’s something unions have preferred, because it benefits senior members of the union over junior ones, since junior flight attendants tend to work more, shorter flights and spend a disproportionately larger amount of time boarding planes compared to senior crew with longer flight times on long haul trips.

This, however, increases both wages and adds boarding pay. Obviously flight attendants would like to be paid more. The best leverage they’ll have is pattern bargaining, to wait and see if Sara Nelson’s AFA gets more money for cabin crew at United.

While American Airlines flight attendants have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, which is different than actually wanting to strike or being able to strike, the best strategy is going to be to wait – both for union leadership who want re-election and for union members who want a better deal and who will want to see what happens at United.

Meanwhile, with a competitive offer on the table, it might be a struggle to get released to self-help (strike) by the National Mediation Board. No administration wants to see major airlines shut down. And the union can’t afford it anyway, and neither can its members. That’s why they’ve talked in flight attendant communications about randomly striking certain flights and routes on certain dates, rather than engaging in a full strike. That way flight attendants can continue drawing pay while imposing a cost on the airline, since most can’t go without the income. (Although LAX-based flight attendants may become eligible for unemployment during a strike, which is another reason to wait.)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. as expected.
    AA and WN FAs operate many domestic flights like DL so not delivering boarding pay would be a huge loss.
    The union was expecting large increases closer to the pilots and boarding pay but only one of those was likely esp. given that pilots didn’t get pre-flight prep pay.

    As has been the case, Delta sets the momentum for the industry and AA has no choice but to pay up. Given that it was UA’s CEO that most recently bemoaned high labor costs, there is now a match to see who of AA, UA and WN will be last to cough up pay raises for their flight attendants.

  2. Still no PDBs but more paid time to do the safety-related credit card hustle.

    In the history of the Railway Labor Act, has any airline labor group that’s put forth a strike vote (as in, we authorize a strike if it comes to it) ever been voted down?

  3. I travel weekly with American Airlines; the inflight service is generally very poor & it’s difficult to understand why terrible service should be rewarded with a raise. If anything, I think FA pay should go down. I understand that AA needs to be competitive & retain their employees. But what if they went over to UA, DL or WN? The competition would suffer & suspect that new hires would do far better job.

  4. A/A has the worst on board service of US carriers. A long strike with major changes might be good for the industry. We never fly A/A unless there is no alternative.

  5. If the ultimate contract is anywhere near what the company is offering, you will never see a predeparture beverage (other than water) served again lol

  6. Why is pre departure beverages so important to so many? F/C passengers board first. Now the flight attendants blocks the boarding of coach passengers (on narrow body aircraft) causing a delayed departure. If you need a beverage buy a water or drink in the terminal and carry it on.

  7. I recently started reading this column and I didnt realize there were as many other readers who felt the same way about American Airlines as I did. I fly frequently internationally and I stopped flying American 6 years ago mainly because of the surly attitude of their flight attendants. I do occasionally fly United and Delta but my preference is to fly foreign carriers like Singapore, Emirates or Qatar where the service and attitude is so much better. Domestically my preference is to fly Southwest.

    While I am sure there are hard working and deserving flight attendants who work for American, unfortunately I have not flown with them. I can’t imagine how they can be offered a contract equal to a superior airline like Delta and they not accept it.

    I wish I knew what the solution was as far as improving the surly attitude of so many American flight attendants but I don’t think throwing them more money and benefits will help. It seems to be ingrained in their culture.

  8. Not so fast. The devil is in the details. To qualify for boarding pay, the crew must be on board 5 minutes before scheduled departure. How many times are crews late through no fault of their own? Crappy scheduling will prevent this from actually being applied to many. Oh well, wouldn’t count of those drinks so fast.

  9. At UA $43 (A scale) in 1996 is the equivalent of $84 today! Plus we had full VAC pay (5hr/day), Full Medical covered, Healthcare in tact for 7 years (now 3 and UA wants to cut completely, Dry Cleaning and much better work rules that protected us from a very toxic work environment and let’s not forget OUR PENSIONS!)! So $84 (per flight hour) should be the floor for getting a raise. And not BOARDING PAY, but GROUND PAY! All those three hour sits between flights we aren’t getting paid! I hope AA fights! American corporations always have billions $ for stock buybacks. Time to pay back employees for all of the sacrifices during bankruptcies, pandemics and economic downturns and mergers!

  10. 2% a year? The current inflation rate is 3.7%, if you aren’t giving at least 4% that’s an annual pay cut.

    Gotta say on that part at least I have to stand with the unions. 2% is ridiculous unless it’s in addition to a COL raise.

  11. Those of you that prefer flying the foreign carriers needs to understand that they have double the staffing over any American carrier, many are government subsidized. Also, many of theirs flight attendants are forced to resign when they reach a certain age.
    In the US many of our airlines are bringing back service to pre pandemic levels without bringing back staffing to pre pandemic levels. Flight crews are under paid and over worked and since they are not getting paid during boarding, getting you your pre departure beverage is a low priority especially when it’s a major hassle while blocking the aisle during boarding.
    I agree a smile goes a long way, but it also goes both ways! So maybe instead of being so bent out of shape over not getting a predeparture beverage, maybe a smile for your overworked flight attendant and the realization that they are ONLY paid flight hours and not for time in between flights or for boarding and they definitely deserve a hell of a lot more than the peanuts American Airlines is offering them!

  12. Honestly, if I was negotiating any contract for anybody at American, I would say since you froze our pensions you give us cost of living increases on our pensions based on SSI indexes… Let’s start there first! Then let’s reopen retiree medical until the age of 67 for those who want to retire at 55, surely it has to be cheaper than the 150k medical cards they gave out during covid retirement. What a majority of you people making comments on here? Negative ones at that! Did you know we gave up 23% of our wages and benefits back in 2012. We are just finally gaining back everything we lost and hoping to gain through normal negotiations Granted a 40% raise is a abnormal amount given to any labor group including the pilots? They should have been just happy with 20% raise. I know I would been happy to have that in my labor group. We are the backbone of the airline. We are the ones inside the belly of an airplane. We are the ones driving your luggage, working short in the bagroom, in all kinds of weather, whether it’s hot desert temps or a freezing rain/snow we are out there providing a service with very little appreciation, and don’t get me wrong, our flight attendants also deserve the best as well, especially since they have to put up with unruly passengers with attitudes or passengers who feel entitled? And trust me there are a lot of you! I see it everyday.

  13. Do any of you passengers who sit in first class or business actually know how difficult it is to do a pre departure beverage service on a crummy single aisle airplane ? You probably just came from the club where you gulped down free food and beverages prior to boarding. Boarding is and will always be the most stressful and difficult part of a flight. To boot the F/A’s don’t get paid anything for the time it takes to board. Some airline companies simply put a bottle of water at each premium seat, ( of which the vast majority of you don’t actually pay for ) . You demanding dick heads need to just get

    on and not expect on ground service . Thus the word in training is ( inflight
    service)

  14. @MrNonRever..I totally understand but also I was brought up to know when to leave a room I’m not happy or comfortable in. I’m not saying you haven’t given up anything in the past but there are other careers out there where you don’t have to work in unfavorable conditions. If you don’t like the food you change the restaurant. Truth of the matter and this is coming from someone with 20+ years in the industry, there is a lot of flexibility and money to be made. Swaps, doubles and flexible schedules. With that is why most stay and deal with the conditions. Very few smart people don’t want to move to management because theres no union or they don’t have the flexibility in schedules. Can’t have your cake and eat it too…Just sayin…

  15. When your shift starts (and you’ve signed in), pay should start immediately at 50%. Yes, United/Continental generates more revenue than American. That is a reflection of the poor image and service they are providing today. Change your actions/behavior and customers will return. As for long term increases in retirement, I doubt the airline will budge on that. So, I’d accept what they are offering. Throw back to American that 2% is not in line with true inflation numbers. 8% increase per year for the next 5 years seems reasonable.

  16. When CEO and other senior executive compensation is reduced to a reasonable multiplier of what the hourly wage worker makes…then all of these arguments about what wage a worker makes would be legitimate. But when you have CEO and other executives making nearly 400% of what a worker makes…it doesn’t seem like it’s reasonable to think the flight attendants don’t deserve more.

    Factor in all that hourly airline workers have given up over the last 40 years while the executives pocketed millions in stock buybacks and performance bonuses above and beyond their inflated salaries and then tell me they don’t deserve competitive wages.

  17. @Steve1 – AA execs are overpaid relative to performance. Full stop. But they could well earn substantially more than front line workers and be worth it!

  18. Glenn,
    your statement about UA earning more revenue and profits than AA simply does not match the most recent financial statements.
    UA had a ONE QUARTER (3rd quarter 2023) revenue and profit advantage because it didn’t get rid of older aircraft.
    DL esp. slowed its growth in order to recover its operational leadership last summer.
    AA and DL both began to regrow their revenue at the same pace as UA in the 4th quarter and have maintained it since.
    UA flies more seat miles but that is not the financial metric that matters on the bottom line.

    As for FA costs, AA is simply following the cost template that DL set out; they have no choice. Boarding pay will cost AA proportionately more than UA because AA, like DL, has a higher percentage of shorter domestic mainline flights than UA but that is precisely where UA is growing. DL’s plan adds more costs to UA which has yet to come up w/ an FA contract proposal and also to WN who has yet to come up w/ a proposal for its FAs that its members will approve.

    everyone else has to commit to an inflation growth estimate now as part of contracts but DL can and does adjust its pay raise proposals based on real-world cost increases and also on DL revenue performance. Even the UPS contract was heavily cost loaded to the first and last years of the contract; DL doesn’t have to do that while leaving uncertainty in the middle years which unions do not like.

    Having a largely non-union workforce is a huge advantage for DL esp in a high-inflation period with uncertain economic macroeconomic conditions.

    AA is moving forward with a FA contract proposal while UA and WN will play catchup and ultimately pay proportionately more.

  19. @Cathy Richards:

    “Those of you that prefer flying the foreign carriers needs to understand that they have double the staffing over any American carrier, many are government subsidized. Also, many of theirs flight attendants are forced to resign when they reach a certain age.”

    So what and who cares?

    Using your comments simply as an example, but what is it with this new attitude and practice of attempting to make a business’s internal workings the concern of it’s customers?

    As a customer of a business, I don’t care one bit about how a business’s owners choose to run their business – I simply expect value for money and I know that my expertise doesn’t lie in running an airline or a restaurant, so I STFU and get on with it.

    Everyone has to retire at some point and if a flight attendant doesn’t realize that their time has passed or that they are unable to look and perform like a professional and present the best image of their employer, then I have no problem with an employer who shows them the door – that’s the definition of good management.

    And I REALLY don’t understand why anyone would even THINK about flying a U.S. domestic airline internationally; do whatever you need to do to avoid it. There’s nothing wrong with spending the time and money to take a positioning flight, spend a night in a hotel, etc. to support an airline with a superior product.

    And if one does choose to fly a U.S. domestic airline internationally and the experience is poor, don’t add to the amount of unpleasantness in the world by pissing and moaning about it – just STFU, take the lesson to heart, and move on; it’s not like you weren’t warned.

  20. So, you are fine with ageism and firing experienced people? “Present the best image for their employer” has nothing to do with age. That means being tidy, keeping your hair back so it doesn’t end up in anyone’s food or beverage, following the dress code.

    It means treating people well.

    I’d rather have a gray-haired flight attendant who knows what their doing than somebody “cast for their looks.”

    You’re talking about actual people, with bills to pay, homes to struggle to keep, etc as if they were show dogs.

  21. Another huge efficiency gained by Airlines is staffing cuts. Most flights go out with FAA minimums which don’t reflect service needs. Foreign carriers have managed to maintain better staffing levels On a full 737x with only 2 FAs in YC, it’s takes forever to get through the service. Especially dealing with technical issues of contactless payments, Wi-Fi and entertainment every other row.

  22. @Jennifer P:

    In no way can anything that I wrote be construed as condoning ageism and I don’t appreciate the the ad-hominem attack.

    What I did say was:

    “Everyone has to retire at some point and if a flight attendant doesn’t realize that their time has passed or that they are unable to look and perform like a professional and present the best image of their employer…”

    I specifically used the word “perform” in addition to the words “to look”

    Any organization’s image is mostly defined about how it treats it’s customers and how it delivers it’s product, i.e., performs; case in point is why an awful lot of people will go out of their way to ensure that they do not fly internationally on a U.S. domestic airline because those airlines performance is, on the whole, lousy, especially when compared to foreign carriers.

    At the end of the day, it seems that way too many people working for U.S. domestic airlines forget that THEY are in the service business and that their job is to deliver SERVICE.

    Even the GOAT Tom Brady one day understood that his day to retire had come and if the day to retire comes to him, rest assured it will come to us all, one day or another, no two ways about it; unfortunately some people do require a kick out the door to let them know that it’s time.

  23. Most people don’t get to retire. That’s only going to get worse.

    But you still used “to look” and you absolutely implied that older people don’t present as good an image simply by virtue of being older.

    And that those people should be forcibly retired whether or not they can survive without that income.

    All I’m saying is to think about what you’re saying and implying. If somebody is reading something you didn’t say, then it’s probably in there. I’ve been there.

    (Also, yes, I do generally prefer foreign carriers over U.S. when flying internationally. I agree that the U.S. airline industry needs to work on the service it provides).

  24. @Jennifer P:

    Baffles me how anyone could come away with the implication of “older” from what I actually wrote:

    “Everyone has to retire at some point and if a flight attendant doesn’t realize that their time has passed or that they are unable to look and perform like a professional and present the best image of their employer…”

    For some people, such as Tom Brady, “their time” is aged 44; for Warren Buffet, who’s currently aged 93, “their time” will likely be when he’s dropped in the ground. Tom Brady realized that his time had come and Warren Buffet seems to be performing as well as ever.

    Like it or not, a company serving the general public has every right to expect that their public-facing employees present a professional and competent appearance – anyone whose role requires them to routinely face the public should expect and accept that and that’s a small but important part of what makes foreign carriers such as Thai, PAL, Emirates, etc preferred over U.S. domestic airlines for international travel.

  25. So you’re comparing someone who makes $40 million/year to someone who lost their pension, health and safety work rules in a very demanding and toxic environment and hasn’t had a raise in 25 years and is relying on a stable market so they don’t drain their 401k. The critics on here have zero empathy. Only able to view the world through their own lens and experience. No wonder we are so divided as a nation.

  26. So you’re comparing someone who makes $40 million/year to someone who lost their pension, health and safety work rules in a very demanding and toxic environment and hasn’t had a raise in 25 years and is relying on a stable market so they don’t drain their 401k. The critics on here have zero empathy. Only able to view the world through their own lens and experience. No wonder we are so divided as a nation.

  27. American Airlines are they to pay their flight attendants what delta is making now. Delta is about to get a raise and AA will be at delta’s old pay for 5 years. And ground pay I believe they should get more than the $2 and change that they are getting now however I don’t think it should be 50% pay. American Airlines agents starts off at $14 a hour and top off at $32. American Airlines profits billions of dollars and can afford to give all of their employees live-able wages.

  28. For those of you thinking we will be paid more & you might get a pre departure drink, we don’t & haven’t been paid till the brakes are released! If we sit on the ground for any amount of time with passengers, we aren’t getting paid. To serve pre departure drinks, it holds up boarding & then we get in trouble & yelled at. Most of you have no idea what our job entails. I have not had a pay raise except contractual for 40 years.

  29. Such an amateurishly written article at best; and at worst a poor attempt at a pro-management spin, Delta doesn’t count. Their $74 an hour is just a place holder. They adjust their wages all the time because they’re non-union. United sets the market. They have a real union, unlike AA’s company friendly association.. If AA FAs took this ridiculous offer they’d be fools. Then United will get $90+ an hour and AA FAs will be left in the dust as usual. AA hopes their FAs wil settle quickly before they have to match United. Also AA isn’t even matching Delta. AA doesn’t even cater food for their flight attendants. Every other major airline does. Groceries are through the roof and hotel restaurants are fewer and far between and close before most crews arrive for their layovers.

  30. @James you call me ‘amateurish’ for taking a ‘pro-management spin’ when your point is they should wait for United’s deal and – just checking if you read the article – what did I say they should do?

    Hate it when commenters shoot off based on some imagined vibes without actually engaging the argument.

  31. @gentleman Jack Darby

    Saying you “STFU and move on “ because “running an airline is not your expertise”

    Yet here you are with loads to say about how AA should run their business. Pretty comical actually.

  32. For context: I’m 31 years as a flight attendant for AA. I can unabashedly say that I am ‘one of the good guys.’ I have never forgotten that my job is, other than the thankfully-seldom need for emergency and medical situations, simply to make a passenger’s journey from point A to point B as pleasant as possible.

    Back when I started (February 1992) people still most always dressed up to fly. They seemed to treat air travel as a luxury, or at least a nice occasional experience that they looked forward to. Over the years, obviously, things have changed drastically with air travel. Just as they have with U.S. culture in general. With that cultural change has come a tremendous difference in the way that passengers behave. Even when, or maybe I should say especially when, they are treated well.

    As with any interaction in society, respect is a two-way street. Both flight attendants (and anyone in a service oriented position) and passengers need to remember that. For those of you that, to use your frequent example in this post, apparently begin your assessment of a flight attendant’s attitude and work ethic on whether or not you receive a predeparture beverage (as you will on my flight), I remind you that “please”, “thank you”, a smile and pleasant demeanor will go a long way in how you feel you are treated. Which is exactly how I present service to you. It is always clear who has either worked in a service position or has the class to be polite. And go through life remembering that two-way street.

    Many of you are correct, customer service and attention are a very large part of our job. And those of us who remember that DO deserve to share in AA’s record profits and regain at least some of what we have lost over time. Just as I do not know your job because I have not done it, I assure you that unless you’ve been a flight attendant you do not know mine. Please remember that the next time you are sipping on your drink as passengers file through your forward cabin to their seat during boarding. And do as I do. Treat others, even flight attendants, like you want to be treated.

  33. For Pete’s sake… do you want a pre departure beverage or do you want to get to where you’re going? If you need a drink that badly have it in the lounge or at one of the airport bars. Let the flight attendants do their pre-departure cabin safety and security duties instead of a beverage service for for needy passengers who can’t wait til they’re airborne

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