Dramatic Concessions: American Airlines Flight Attendants Lower Demands to Avoid Strike

Flight attendants have significantly reduced their bargaining demands in tense negotiations with the American Airlines. The parties have been working this week in Washington, D.C. with federal mediators, and will continue to do so all next week, in front of a leaked deadline to wrap up a deal under threat that the government will release cabin crew to strike.

If the parties can’t come to a deal that does not mean there will be a strike. Even though flight attendants have voted overwhelmingly to authorize one, bargaining may continue if they’re close. And government permission simply sets of a 30-day period before they’re allowed to do so. The union has talked about targeted different flights each day, rather than a wholesale strike, to allow most members to continue collecting pay during any job action.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants reports that American has increased its offer – as it said it would do, in light of raises announced by Delta – and that their most recent offer is lower than previous asks.

  • They’re seeking a 28% increase at date of signing, boarding pay, and per diem increases.

  • Separately they’ve reported asking for retro pay, covering increases they would have earned since their contract became amendable four and a half years ago.

  • They report that their “combined pay and boarding pay proposal places our core economics higher than the Southwest deal, and above Delta’s current imposed work rules.”

There are two things that are striking about the offer put on the table by flight attendants.

  1. It’s much lower than what they had been telling union members to expect. They had been demanding an immediate 35% raise. The last raise flight attendants received was January 1, 2019. We’ve seen 24.5% consumer price inflation since then, so at this point with a 28% increase the union is mostly asking for an inflation-adjustment.

  2. American Airlines flight attendants would likely be lower-paid than non-union cabin crew at Delta. The union’s description of its offer is very lawyerly – their claim about being higher than Delta looks only at “combined pay and boarding pay” as the “core economics” of the deal for this comparison. It therefore does not include profit sharing. While American is offering the same profit sharing formula that Delta uses, American earns less profit and so payments are substantially lower.

Reducing their demands while telling members that their ask is better than what competitors are getting is a rhetorical reverse for the union. It means that – having gotten past union officer re-elections – they’re free to bargain realistically without threat to their lucrative positions (flight attendant union officers got better than a 40% raise as part of the imposed contract when US Airways took over American, which certainly didn’t hurt the company’s obtaining labor support for the deal).

American Airlines will certainly offer a signing bonus to flight attendants, but won’t want to do full retro pay covering assumed increases back to January 2020. No one would have expected them to, other than flight attendants themselves, until Southwest Airlines gave this in their recent new contract. The amount of any signing bonus may still be contentious. Per diem increases are, apparently, still an item under discussion. But as I noted a couple of weeks ago rhetoric had shifted and confrontations between union head Julie Hedrick and American Airlines CEO Robert Isom were mostly for show at this point.

Ultimately this has been a conciliatory union, recent rhetoric aside. It supported the US Airways takeover of American. It supported the return of attendance points as the pandemic waned, to ensure that members worked their schedules (to reduce the number of senior union members forced to work reserve). The union never even cried foul as the company furloughed more flight attendants than any other airline in the world during Covid. Surely they’ll reach an agreement with the airline – the question then is whether they’ll be able to sell it to the membership.

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. There goes the comments sections dream of once and for all dealing with the issue here.

    Despite Isoms past at NWA, the legacy pre-merger AMR/American employees in management are well aware of the damage toxic labor relations can cause.

    Good luck

  2. If the union does not ask for whats its members are asking for:
    Full retro!
    Higher the southwest wages!
    Quality of life improvements!
    They will conduct a WILDCAT STRIKE!

  3. I can’t believe that the union officers are going to get a 40% pay raise, while the members only get 28% pay raise. Corruption at the top of the APFA!!!!!!

  4. @John / I hope they do conduct a wildcat strike. Then fire all of them that do it. Will only be a very small percentage since most can’t afford it and don’t have the stones anyway. Also a wildcat strike is illegal in aviation so not only would they get fired but face jail time.

  5. You wrote boarding pass instead of boarding pay. Also since you leaked a 28% pay increase what is the actually starting and ending pay?

  6. I think it was supposed to say “boarding pay”

    They’re seeking a 28% increase at date of signing, boarding pass, and per diem increases.

  7. Gary, I dont know who feeds you the info from AA but 8ts not all accurate.

    If AA and APFA come to a tentative agreement, the .FAs still get to VOTE on it. It cannot be imposed like it was with the USAir merger. Of which because it was a MERGER of contracts it was a different situation.

    As far as our point system for attendance, the union did a Presidential Grievence and it was arbitrated. So we got what we got.

  8. @Sphynx21 – I never said otherwise about flight attendants having to vote, in fact that could be tough, I explain why.

    The union grieved the points system. AA suspended it during Covid. Then Julie Hedrick supported Brady Byrnes in bringing it back. That was revealed in court testimony in the MASS SICK court case.

  9. @Justsaying – A first year currently makes $30.35/hr, a 13th year makes $68.25 per hour, you can do the math on 28%. Boarding pay would be at 50% of the hourly duty rate.

  10. A few notes:

    ~ It’s the UNIONS fault that this has gone on 4.5 years.
    ~ It’s the UNIONS fault they “oversold” what FA’s could expect to get in these negotiations.
    ~ It’s the UNIONS fault that negotiations had to be delayed yet again until after their well paid officers elections.
    ~ It will be the UNIONS fault if the members are upset with the final agreement.

  11. Oh, how I long for removing government involvement in the affairs of the private sector. If they restricted themselves to their proper role – the protection of property rights – all of these employer/employee disagreements could be settled very quickly.

  12. Some of this information you are posting in this article is WRONG..!! The AA Flight Attendants are in contract negotiations and not in contract concessions..!!

  13. They didn’t lower it to avoid a strike, they lowered it to show the NMB they’re willing to negotiate and AA isn’t, higher the chances of being released to strike. It shows AA isn’t negotiating in good faith which is required under the RLA. Even if, It will just be voted down and they will get they will retro and 35% with the second TA proposal. That’s how it always goes. SW bored down their first TA and got a lot more $$ and full retro with the second TA.

  14. Wore we sold out by the union ? ! Whenever there’s gains or profits, there will be opportunity for corruption ! The question is whether we agreed with silence or permit it with omission .

  15. Strike says:
    May 24, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    That’s how it always goes. SW bored down their first TA and got a lot more $$ and full retro with the second TA.

    Who told you WN SW got full Retro? That is absolutely incorrect and the actual money was amost the same. They just made it a Four year deal instead of Five. They still don’t have boarding pay, they still don’t have cleaners.

  16. All I want is to stop hearing about how Boston FAs can get food stamps due to their low, low wages. Not that I care that wages go up, I only care that I don’t want to hear about it. Get on with it. Some jobs are poorly paid. The FAs could improve their wages and working conditions by working at say a slaughterhouse or maybe a leather tannery. Working at a hog rendering plant would have better wages and better working conditions.

    About this so-called union, they feel like they have to be getting money under the table from AA. I mean who would knowingly not get their members a pay raise through all of this inflation and then promise back pay?!! The incompetence is stunning and their members get so little they are on food stamps. Oh gawd more about food stamps again?!

  17. I am an American Airlines flight attendant. I appreciate the updates posted here about the negotiations as updates from the union are pretty slow as well.

    I plan to wait for retro pay… Then… I believe I will resign and do something else. I have between 10 and 15 years of seniority

  18. Obviously, the union leadership is not acting like they WANT a strike. Nor should they be. It’s human nature to compare what you have to your “neighbors,” but that’s not necessarily smart. Few people (who are not flight attendants) would say that AA flight attendants are “underpaid.” That’s obvious from the fact that there are still a zillion applications for every opening — even in a country where finding people to fill service jobs has become extremely difficult. AA has returned to profitability, but nobody would say they’re raking it in. Their margins are still below 10%, which is what you’d want to see at a “successful” airline. A healthy airline would be VERY good for AA flight attendants. The company would expand further and that would lead to better schedules and improved quality of life. Jumping on the recent industry bandwagon of obtaining over-compensation is obviously appealing to rank-and-file employees, but it’s not smart when your employer is still a bit weaker financially than its competitors. There are many examples in recent history of this not ending well for airlines, or their employees.

    Watch and see.
    The Flight ATtendants have put up with enough bullshit from fools like you.
    Ftom sars to covid TO DEPLORABLES.

  20. @John FAs are in the customer service business. If you dont like the package, you can vote against it or find an airline with a compensation package you agree with. In any negotiation, both sides will not get allnof what they want. Hopefully there is enough that a majority of AA’s FAs can support it.

  21. Per APFA Communications:

    No, this is not official. No one has spoken with this blogger.


    APFA Communications

  22. The last raise on January 1, 2019 included a cost of living adjustment. To have the period for any retroactive pay go back to that date would have 2019 getting two full cost of living adjustments. The date for any retroactive pay to go back to is January 1, 2020.

  23. The idea of paying these people boarding pay is ridiculous. It must not happen.

  24. If FAs are required for the plane to fly then ok, hope they get an agreement and avoid schedule disruption. It’s not like they make any difference in the quality of the flight. Can’t remember the last time I spoke to an FA other than “water please”. Don’t see much need unless you’re a FC pax. Would do without them if it reduced the cost of flying.

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