American Airlines Union’s Cruel Twist For Ex-TWA Attendants At Iconic TWA Hotel Meeting

The American Airlines New York flight attendants base is holding an in-person meeting at the TWA Hotel and wow, does the Association of Professional Flight Attendants have a cruel sense of irony. The American Airlines flight attendants union took a boot to the throats of all ex-TWA flight attendants when that airline was acquired by American in 2001.

TWA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2001. It was the third time TWA had filed for bankruptcy. This filing coincided with the announcement of its acquisition by American Airlines. The bankruptcy was part of the plan for American Airlines acquiring the storied carrier.

And the role of bankruptcy would become important to how TWA employees would be treated. Since TWA was essentially a failed carrier, legacy American Airlines flight attendants argued that TWA crew should be ‘stapled to the bottom’ of the seniority list. That was bad for their schedules, pay, and retirement.

TWA flight attendants were represented by the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants. They were smaller in number. The majority of flight attendants were ‘sticking it to’ the minority of flight attendants. Unions often work that way, and the airline went along.

The treatment of TWA flight attendants during the integration into American Airlines following the acquisition ‘shocked the conscience’ of many observers, including legislators. It was a key factor in prompting 2007 passage of the McCaskill-Bond Amendment which now requires that in airline mergers, the integration of seniority lists must be fair and equitable, and it outlines procedures for resolving disputes regarding seniority list integrations in an effort to protect the rights and careers of airline employees in future mergers.

The US Airways acquisition gave ex-TWA flight attendants another bite at the apple, since it meant another combination of seniority lists. The way it worked was,

For legacy American:

  • American Airlines flight attendants based on date of hire prior to April 10, 2001
  • Then TWA flight attendants based on date of hire
  • And American Airlines flight attendants hired after April 10, 2001

And US Airways flight attendants was based on date a crewmember began training (which is about the same as date of hire order).

TWA flight attendants hired in 1972 were placed behind all US Airways and American flight attendants hired before April 10, 2001.

In February 2023, TWA flight attendants finally lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which ruled that they weren’t entitled to seniority they’d lost in 2001.

McCaskill-Bond required that integration of seniority lists be done in a “fair and equitable manner.” Yet the judge pointed out that ironically this law “did nothing for the very group…whose misfortunes had given it life.”

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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Comments

  1. And the point of this article was that it was just an irresistible opportunity to union bash? So predictable.

  2. TWA flight crew and flight attendants were my personal friends , and I speak highly of them as professionals who met my needs . Especially my fun partying needs .

  3. The young FAs should stick it to the old. They should vote against all contracts until there is nearly parity in pay. Currently, old FAs make a lot bit they don’t serve more passengers or evacuate faster. They should get scheduling priority and maybe up to 25% more in pay, that’s it.

  4. There was also not too long ago that APFA tweet on TWA FAs.

    This whole union leaves a nasty taste in my mouth to say in polite terms.

  5. It should be known that TWAs union (IFFA) at that time sent union president Vicky Frankovich to help organize APFA to which they got their best contract in 1994. So to staple TWA f/as to the bottom of the seniority list was a big slap on the face.
    They are not doing anything worth wild for their rank and file now. I’m wondering why they call themselves a union.

  6. As an Ex-Teamster, I’m saddened about the awful treatment of the TWA Atendents. But not surprised. Unions look out for their pecking order and buddies & cronies first. Then the workers.
    Ask any Teamster who was counting on a pension from the Teamsters Union Central States pension plan….

  7. You can blame the AA rank and file membership for this treatment. They were looking to gain in that whole episode, and gain they did. They flew TWA metal they had no right to fly prior to April 10, 2001, not only that, but they got prime choice of assignments and the resulting pay.

    But lets be fair here, while the AA FA’s screwed the TWA FA’s, the TWA FA’s were horrible to the (trainee) FA’s that were forced to work or lose their jobs during the strike in 1986. They literally carried “scab” lists with them. But in the end, they all lost due to Karl Icahn who said if you want a friend, get a dog. If it weren’t for that scumbag, TWA would still be around. I’m thinking there will be a special room in Hell for him when he dies. But it looks like he will try to take out one more airline before he does with JetBlue.

    But the FA’s weren’t the only group screwed over. So were the dispatchers, Pilots, mechanics, and ramp people.

  8. Unionized businesses rarely, if ever, mention “the customer”. They don’t care. Unions are only interested in fighting over the proverbial pot of goal with management. Meanwhile customer service is virtually ignored or even discouraged. This lack of customer focus is a major reason why the heavily unionized airline industry is so despised by the public. This story isn’t merely an indictment of American Airlines, but of the entire airline industry.

  9. @derek you sound like an entitled little new hire. First off AA FAs TOP OUT in pay at 13 years. So any raises after that is contracted and is usually a percentage that is applied to ALL the FAs. So in a very short time your pay is going to increase as well. WE ALL WENT THRU IT, WE ALL HAD TO EARN OUR PAY AND TRIPS OVER TIME.
    This isn’t Tik Tok, you don’t get to make a lot of money overnight and pay isn’t based on who gets the most likes. This is a real adult job, pay is based on longevity and hopefully, cost of living.

  10. Unions are vital for large companies because otherwise employees are often treated like valueless replaceable parts. Shareholders already have management to look after their interests and in any industry with fair competition the customer can choose to spend money elsewhere. That leaves labor in the lurch unless they unionize. For small companies, talking about problems to management is usually no problem; try getting in to see Robert Isom to correct a problem. That’s why large corporations need to have unionized labor.

  11. Derek is the guy who gets hired to a new job he’s never done and is convinced he’s better at it than a 30+ year veteran. Kinda like yhe kid at my mechanic who couldn’t drive my car with 3 pedals.

  12. If you’re idiotic enough to join a union, you get what you deserve. There is no difference between “organized labor” and “organized crime”

    I’ve been a member of four unions, and all four screwed their members. Three of the screwed me personally.

  13. It is incredibly sad that a job like being a flight attendant is about, safety, service and creating an environment for passengers that is about caring for people in a number of ways. It’s disgraceful that AA F/A’s treat their colleagues so disgracefully bad.

    Take care of each other. If you are in a union it is all for one, not one against another.

    The wrong airline went out of business.

    I vote with my wallet. My wallet never votes for AA

  14. @DaveW With the exception that a mechanic actually has a trade that requires experience. A FA does not. In fact, senior FA’s have nothing to offer but entitled laziness under the current system. Does a twenty year barista at Starbucks really provide any more service than one who has been there for one year? No, it’s just a choice that they stayed in what is a simple job that long.

  15. I am not discrediting anyone’s opinion or views but my recollection of this event is as the author has written.
    As a X-TWA FA I am thankful that today I have a job but I all employees at TWA were treated unfairly.
    The chips fell were they fell and I have long accepted this; but, be it known that I will never support a strike action by our current union until everyone is treated fair and equally.

  16. Waahhh…..cry me a river. This is 20+ years of litigation and a waste of money because your chances to beat the union is nil.

  17. You’re omitting a some critical details to this story, namely that the former union that represented TWA flight attendants agreed to the arrangement, and that the actually got top of scale AA pay and vacation, and that when this deal was made, no one could have predicted the events of 9/11 and the impact it had on our industry afterwards, namely as it pertains to furloughs.

    As for the comparison of the integration of TWA flight attendants against the integration of USAirways flight attendants, you cannot. TWA was an acquisition, whereas USAirways and AA was a merger.

  18. TWA failed over 23 years ago.

    How many TW FA’s with meaningful pre-AA seniority are left to slight?

  19. Every airline merger involves a new seniority negotiation that potentially starts with a clean sheet for the acquired work group. The downside is lost seniority but the upside is a career with a future. In TWA’s case, it was increased pay, pensions, better benefits and more job security (except for 9/11). After all, American acquired TWA from the ashes of bankruptcy.

  20. Wow!..I fly all the time and just now realized that there’s so much drama between flight attendants who suppose to keep me safe while in the air. Who’s to say that one of them decides to go postal like that lost Malaysian airline for which we have found yet.
    Rest assured that I’ll try to avoid this high drama airline to increase my safety odds.
    So for that I say thank you.

  21. My heart goes out to the the flight attendants, but even in 2024 look at the stuff AFA is pulling with it’s membership, it’s just a sad repeat of the same old wheel.

  22. As a former member of the TWA Board of Directors and the Air Line Pilots Association chairman at TWA, I would like to salute you in getting the story of the asset purchase (it wasn’t a merger) by AA. AA management (and I dealt with them directly) threw the TWA employees under the bus by simply rubber stamping their union’s seniority integration. They didn’t have to.

    Asset purchase agreement available upon request.

  23. The legacy AA flight attendants so suffer the same fate of what the APFA did to the TWA flight attendants. Stapled to the bottom, after all technically US Airways bought AA, not the other way around.

  24. “ Ex-TWA Attendants” we’re not “attendants” we are Flight Attendants or Cabin Crew.

  25. All in all, removing TWA from existence was really fine to cover up the TWA downing off of Ling Island. No airline then no investigation and reveal of the truth

  26. There are 468 legacy TWA flight attendants left on the AA seniority list

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