Angry American Airlines Flight Attendants Could Start Giving Away Buy On Board Food For Free

The American Airlines flight attendants union has sent out a message to members instructing them not to engage in “self help” meaning job actions that hurt the company, without being released from negotiations by the National Mediation Board.

This message comes with a bit of a wink and a nod.

  • It opens telling flight attendants to “be careful on social media about how we talk about negotiations and how to pressure the Company.” It doesn’t begin with don’t pressure the company, it says be careful what’s posted publicly about it.

  • They tell flight attendants that the rules are unfair (“This area of the law is not fair to workers, but it is a reality we must deal with.”).

  • And it provides the union with deniability in the event flight attendants do take matters into their own hands, to push back against the company seeking an injunction or damages.

I flew back in January with a member of the cabin crew encouraging ‘work to rule’ to pressure the airline during contract negotiations.

Paddle Your Own Kanoo points out that the memo even points out things flight attendant might be ‘considering’ like giving away all of the buy on board snacks and drinks for free.

Examples of self-help include calls to not pick up open time, calls for “work to rule,” refusing to perform duties, refusing to charge customers for buy-on-board products, coordinating calling in sick, etc.

American Airlines flight attendants are going to need to have patience to get to a contract. The union has asked for 35% raises, up to $95 per hour, and they aren’t going to get that. When they do get a deal done, airline CEO Robert Isom has committed to a top of market deal.

Union elections this fall are going to delay an actual deal. Union leaders can’t agree to something well below what members expect, or else they won’t be re-elected. But they can’t get what they’ve trumpeted to members. That’s true both in absolute and relative terms. The ask is well above what other airlines pay, and American itself doesn’t perform as well financially as the best payors, which is another way of saying that employees aren’t generating as much in profit making it tough to earn as much.

We’re not close to a strike though, even as the union prepares to vote to authorize one. They are only just entering federal mediation, so there’s no risk of an impasse being declared soon. And that’s required before starting a 30 day clock before strike action is permitted. What the union has said is that we are less likely to see a full-fledged strike in any case (after all, flight attendants can’t afford to be without the paycheck) and are more likely to see job actions targeted at a given set of flights on specific days.

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. Interestingly enough, flew AA yesterday (domestic) had probably had the most attentive and positive AA FA in first class I can remember…

  2. Seriously, it would be interesting if an FA tried giving away food when a flight is stuck on the tarmac for awhile or experiencing some other significant delay. And do it while openly asking for people’s support of the union.

    Sure, they’d probably get fired, but the press story that they’re fired for giving away FOOD when during a flight delay would make an entertaining read….

  3. Flew AA yesterday, CLO-MIA-PIT, and got to see the true best and worst of AA.

    My flight CLO-MIA, despite being a redeye, I had one of the most attentive and friendly FAs I’ve had in a long time up front. PDBs for all, refills even offered on the PDB, came around offering top-ups on both drinks and snacks the entire flight. Somehow figured out who spoke Spanish and who spoke English from the moment he took drink orders. Miami based.

    MIA-PIT, granted it was Eagle, but during boarding the two FAs were in the rear of the cabin chatting so no one welcomed passengers onboard, and besides doing the bare minimum to get drinks and meals out, the FA for F spent the rest of the flight chatting with the other FA.

    Unfortunately, my experiences continue to be closer to the latter than the former.

  4. “the bare minimum to get drinks and meals out,” Honestly, that’s more than what I paid for, given wretched meal options and sad drink choices. I’ll drink from my own water bottle filled airside, and my own granola bar smuggled past TSA, thank you. All I want is an FA who can karate chop and duct tape the bad passenger and can activate the slide in an emergency. (Actually, I think that I can open the emergency exit and activate the slide myself. All I want is an FA who can duct tape the bad passenger. I can look at my own carryon picture book of smiling adults, and I don’t need RyanAir type FA’s flogging drinks, credit cards, snacks, duty free and more duty free up and down and up and down the aisle every flight.

  5. Wouldn’t you hate to work for a company or to engage in business with a company that has so little regard for the welfare of the PEOPLE THAT PAY THE BILLS… commonly referred to as “the customer”? The snippy unions and members of the unions that encourage pissing off the very people they depend on for their salary. Then there’s the company that makes life miserable enough for the employees that the employees willingly join a union that thinks of itself and the cash cow…not the members. Unions are like herpes…once you get it…you can’t get rid of it. And the circle continues. In flying terms, it’s called a “death spiral”. Good companies hire good people, treat them well, give them the tools and the encouragement to do the best job possible for the customer and laugh all the way to the bank.

  6. There is no incentive for any US airline to rush negotiations with their flight attendants. WN’s FA union just shot down a proposal that was reasonably generous but nowhere near as much as they wanted or the pilots got.
    Throw in federal mediation and the process will take time to play out.

    There is a part of any workgroup that will do their job well even while waiting for more money; the most vocal FAs are the ones that won’t do an inch more than required and then will make a misstep that will cost them as a union.

    The chances are pretty high that FA union leadership will do something during the lengthy federal mediation process that will result in their hand getting slapped – or cost them money down the road.

  7. @aaron

    Eagle is not AA. Giving away an AA product for free is theft=termination=1 less FA on the seniority list.

  8. What percentage of the food that cannot be sold on another flight is actually sold on USA based carriers (this was prompted by the headline and is about generating waste)?

  9. @Gary – Good info. While I’m thinking “abou tit” you may want to invest in a spell check for whatever software you use.

  10. I can’t imagine working for a company that I hate so much, and having no other marketable skills, that I’m forced to stay there.

  11. Robert “Don’t Spend $1 more than necessary” Isom is not committed to a top line deal. His job is to secure labor as cheaply as possible.

  12. Service is bad enough already

    They want to make it worse by giving away that swill

  13. Ok sure…..why would we do THAT when we actually make commission on food for sale? I don’t know anyone who would.

  14. Sounds like the most recent CLT to IAD where FAs spent time discussing how to avoid beverage service and how they were to tired and did not want to preform such, then settled on flight to short to provide anything. Then spent the entire time in the back complaining about their job.

  15. I think todas F/A are diferent from when I work With a Big Airline. We were much better and People respected us.

  16. You get what you pay for. Considering the flight attendants are working under an already unpopular and underpaid, expired contract; I’m surprised things are going as well as they still are. You can’t blame the flight attendants for being angry when pilots are being offered $450 a flight hour contracts while flight attendants have to fight just for $90 per flight hour. Most flight attendants who end up making it through the very selective hiring process for the big 4 airlines have degrees, work experiences or skills such as knowing multiple languages. There’s no reason for them to stick around for anything less than the best the company can offer. If not, the only people who are going to stick around for more than a couple years are the mediocre or people that hate their jobs and take their feelings out on the customer

  17. I’m not sure FAs couldn’t be replaced as far as their “I’m there for your safety” schtick, and it sounds like they’d like to give up entirely on the hospitality aspect of their jobs. Nurses in the ED where I work make $30-$45/hr and truly do have your life in their hands. Most of them are at least BSNs. On the other hand, it took 6 weeks to turn me from a college drop-out into a flight attendant back in the day. What are they thinking?
    That said, I’ve had uniformly pleasant FAs on recent flights, with PBDs, effort to be called by name, thanks on deplaning, etc. They do disappear after initial service I notice.

  18. Yes, nurses do make 30-45 an hour. They are underpaid for sure. The misconception between the two…..a nurse for an 8 hour shift makes the 30-45 per actual hour. The flight crew signs in for work at day 0600. The day might not end until 1800 or even 2100. Up to 15 hours on duty. But getting paid for perhaps 6 or 7 of those hours. Nothing for boarding or deplaning a plane. Nothing while travelling from one plane to the next for another flight. So…the pay of $60 or 68 an hour is for when the plane is moving. Taxiing to take off, in flight, taxiing I to the gate, and when it stops and is parked, that clock stops therefore, the amount of time you are on duty is factored into that. Divide it by half and what we are actually making is 30-34 per hour of being on duty. SO THERE!!!

  19. Trying to compare the salary of a pilot to a FA just really doesn’t make sense.
    Not withstanding, the service they have been providing has been usually on the unsatisfactory side so much that when you do get good service it’s a surprise.
    Everytime they have gotten a raise, they have never improved their quality of service

  20. Not defending for or against the raise, but when quoting top rate remember it’s 92/flight hour. If the months guarantee is 75 hours that means senior Flight attendants will earn a base 6900 a month at the 95/flight hour rate. (Or 82800 a year). Entry level fa would earn 3075/month or 36,900 annually. Just trying to put it in perspective.

  21. AA consistently provides the worst service in the air, mainly because of poor customer service (agents & flight attendants). They want to be paid the highest in the industry for the worst service, how do they justify that request? A six hour flight with one service has become the norm for AA, not so with Delta, Alaska and United.

  22. I’ve enjoyed reading all these comments, especially the ones explaining what a “flight hour” is versus “hours on duty,” and discussing hourly pay of ER nurses with bachelors degrees vs. FAs on duty.
    I come from an airline family (my father & uncle were captains, and my sister is now a first officer, flying international.)
    Comparing salaries of airline pilots to FAs is like comparing salaries of surgeons to nurses. While they are all critical roles, doctors & pilots obviously require many more years of education, clinical training, & qualifications.
    I was interested to see that a senior FA could earn $80k and and starting salary is approx $39k. This is similar to avg entry & top salaries that public school teachers earn, but teachers cannot reach that salary cap with years of service; unless they have earned 2 more degrees (usually Master’s + doctorate).
    Comparisons such as this are helpful for understanding job roles, but ultimately the “duty hours” vs. “Flight hours” is the key industry difference in my opinion.
    To see how apples vs. oranges looks: I would not really want an ER nurse taking my vitals when on “duty pay” vs. “Flight pay”!!!

  23. Flying these days is such a hassle and horrible experience. This just adds to the reasons NOT to fly.

  24. AA just needs to break that union. FAs are compensated at levels not in line with the skill/qualifications required for the job, and yet they keep asking for more. Enough.

  25. Thats stealing and a fireable offense definitely not happening and non lf is stupid to even engage in such stupid revenge we get paid commissions on food sales .

  26. This is and I mean all the offense in the world the dumbest article I’ve ever read.

  27. I flew LAS to DCA a week ago and the FA never mention the BoB food. I ask and FA had to check and then came back with all they had was chips or cheese and fruit. None of the items they are supposed to have a mid-day long nonstop. Not sure why??

  28. American Airlines catastrophe service,citizen father with wife and three kids 8 yers old(epilepsy)6 years old and 3 years old staying front American Airlines for two hours for boarding pass after that send home losing vacation to go in beach,terrible and nonsense American Airlines killing kids smiling…07.25.2023

  29. Being a AA member for years I think that an increase in hourly wage is warranted due to the CEO s who came begging for government assistance in 2020.
    Ain’t No trickle down economics here. They all drew Congress condemnation for not ride share!
    Each came on chartered flights and begged for Aid. Split the difference and resolve the dispute! Eagle flights are not owned by AA and everyone should have free drinks and food .

  30. When passengers get excellent service from an American Airlines flight attendant, nothing stops a passenger from tipping their flight attendant for their superior service.

  31. Why wouldn’t they get the raise? Southwest just turned down $92/hour. They will get it.

  32. Here’s an idea for AA management going into this……

    1) close bases with issues, most likely Phoenix (old AW/US folks) completely close the base down

    2) strengthen sick policy, make anyone who calls out sick be required to get a Dr excuse and fit for duty by a Dr at their expense

    3) cut sick time & vacation time down by 1/3

    4) if that doesn’t work just ditch this union! Delta Airlines did it and so can AA! Something for these flight attendants to consider

    Good luck AA

  33. FLIGHT Attendants deserve 36% raise. $92 hours .since mosts haven’t years seen a pay raise in 22 years. They can be on duty 12 hours domestic and much more international. And only get paid for hours actually flown, when the door is closed. You can work a three or four day trip. With long layover and not paid a minimum per day, like the pilots. There are three day trips. That are paid 10 and half hour.
    Work rules stink. And according to our union we are only asking for a 3.6% in increase in pay for all the years of no pay increases. Barely keeping up with inflation. And nobody brings up the fact that flight Attendant are working with less flight Attendant. The understaffed was implemented during covid. But A.A. has not restored the proper and old staffing rules. You get what you pay for. Underpaid and overworked, understaffed work group.
    The FLIGHT Attendants will get everything they are asking. 26.0000 strong members.

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