American’s Flight Attendants Are Talking Up Strike Vote: Will Summer Travel Be Ruined?

American Airlines pilots have already voted to authorize a strike. It’s a purely symbolic and mostly empty gesture for now. Under the law, they first need to have a federal mediator working with them on negotiations. Then the federal mediator has 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).

Although some union negotiators have pushed (stupidly, in writing) for their colleagues to take illegal job actions against the company, the union has disavowed this, and there’s no reason at this point to believe that summer travel will be disrupted by the airline’s pilots.

While the airline’s mechanics ratified a new contract at the start of the pandemic after causing massive upheaval in the carrier’s operations over the summer of 2019, all is not well in American’s labor relationships beyond just the pilots.

American Airlines flight attendants asked for a federal mediator two months ago, which is the first step needed before they can strike (since they’ll need to be released from negotiations by the mediator as well as a vote to strike as well).

The Association of Flight Attendants has told its members to prepare for a strike vote.

We want to advise all Flight Attendants that we will take all steps necessary to reach an agreement, including taking a strike vote if necessary. We have passed our economic proposals to the company, have bargained over all sections of the agreement, and will continue to negotiate on all unresolved open issues. We will keep the pressure on the company and fight for an agreement.

The timing of any strike vote is important. To be considered seriously by management, the National Mediation Board, and the press, a strike vote must be timed for maximum effectiveness. For this reason, any decision to take a strike vote will be considered after we have had a chance to engage in our statutory mediation process.

As we head into summer, all Flight Attendants must begin preparing for a possible strike vote. That includes educating ourselves about strike activity under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), including both the process and the methods of striking. As we move forward in this process, we will set up a web page that includes strike vote-related information. Flight Attendants are also encouraged to take steps to become dues current to be eligible to vote.

But they’re telling members they aren’t going to strike without telling them they won’t strike. This riles up the members, and makes it sound like the union is militant, when in fact they’re continuing to negotiate with the company and if all continues to proceed apace they won’t end up in a strike. This is the union playing politics with its own members, not against the company.

  • They will “take all steps necessary to reach an agreement” and that could – theoretically – include a strike vote, “if necessary.” They aren’t saying it’s necessary or even likely!

  • They are continuing to negotiate with American management and “will continue to negotiate on all unresolved open issues.”

  • “The timing of any strike vote is important” so they shouldn’t just hold one now. So if it happens, it’ll come later, “after we have had a chance to engage in our statutory mediation process.”

  • They even go on to remind crew that they need to get current with any dues that are in arrears to the union, and underscore that flight attendants will bear financial hardship from a strike.

    Any time we proceed to a possible strike, all Flight Attendants must consider proper financial planning and educate ourselves fully on all aspects of our negotiations.

This message to crewmembers – talking up strike preparations – is all about the reasons that American Airlines flight attendants aren’t going to strike any time soon.

The union is 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.

My bet has been that no contract agreement is possible until after fall union elections, because 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 the rank and file. So agreeing to a contract now would undermine union offer 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.

I do not see risk to summer travel at this point, as challenging as labor relations are for American Airlines right now.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. yes, the summer could be very unpleasant not just for AA passengers but for UA and WN passengers as well since none of them have resolved labor contracts that date to the pre-covid era w/ their pilots and flight attendants.

  2. Yes Fred until you have been and airline employee you have right for such IGNORANT comments. Airlines can legally stretch out negotiations for years. The only real power we have is to strike and it takes several steps the get there. You need to educate yourself. Unions at an airline are a necessary evil.

Comments are closed.