How American Airlines Flight Attendants May Hand The Election To Donald Trump

American Airlines and their flight attendant union’s negotiating team are currently in Washington, D.C. with federal mediators in what the Association of Professional Flight Attendants labels ‘last ditch negotiations’. If a deal cannot be reached, they believe they can get the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse and release them from negotiations, starting a 30-day “cooling off period” that would then allow the employees to strike.

If this plays out as the union hopes – released to strike, and (assuming the company doesn’t fold to their demands) actually striking – American Airlines flight attendants could elect Donald Trump as President.

Without getting into debates of whom you wish to see win the election, I point this out because it’s likely not whom they wish to see as President on the whole.

Betting markets have the Presidential election as basically a toss-up, as of this writing giving Donald Trump a 53% chance of winning but a slight edge in the electoral college to a Democrat.

A strike will be bad for the country and for election narratives.

  • American Airlines carries more passengers domestically than competitors.
  • Even a targeted job action, failing to show up to work specific flights which change each day, will create enough uncertainty that American’s customers try to book away from the airline
  • Other airlines will not be able to absorb them. There will be very limited seats on other airlines, and other carriers won’t be able to systematically make up for capacity effectively taken out of the system in the short-run
  • That means people getting stranded and skyrocketing airfares. This will lead the news every single night.

A strike would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for voter perceptions of the economy. And
the President will be blamed for any strike – influencing voter views of the incumbent’s leadership.

  • Permission to strike must be granted by the federal National Mediation Board. President Biden has appointed a majority of the Board.
  • The President has the power to order an end to a strike. President Clinton ordered American Airlines pilots back to work. He also used his leverage to get the company and flight attendants to agree to arbitration.
  • Failing to exercise this power will be seen as kowtowing to unions, favoring his base (still important in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin) over the median voter.

While President Biden could benefit with base support by supporting a strike in certain states, note also that American Airlines operates hubs in battleground Arizona and Pennsylvania. If the President were to intervene that could hurt him in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as well.

Democrats hope to make gains picking up swing House seats, and an American Airlines strike could dash those hopes in suburban New York. The chance of Democrats picking up Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in Texas might be greatly diminished, also.

Whether you think this is normatively good or bad, just looking at the potential effects, it seems worth noting that American Airlines flight attendants could swing the election to Republicans – both for the Presidency and control of Congress.

The Biden campaign, and Presidential appointees at the National Mediation Board, also know this and may be the biggest factor in considering movement that American Airlines has made in increasing its financial offer in negotiations to mean that there is not an impasse – and possibly not even an impasse until mid-December (so that no strike happens until after the holidays). But they might not!

For many American Airlines flight attendants, the outcome of the election isn’t as important as the fact they haven’t gotten a raise since January 1, 2019. On the other hand, maybe they’d prefer an immediate 17% raise while continuing to negotiate (without giving up anything in exchange) over potentially influencing the next four years for the nation – for better or worse?

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. We don’t have THAT much sway, come on now.

    And if Americans are really that stupid to elect a fascist over a labor dispute… Then that’s what America deserves and I don’t want to hear any whining about inflation because when people fight inflation, they elect a fascist.

    American Airlines is also not the only airline. They can always fly United or Spirit or Frontier or Delta or Alaska or Sun Country or Allegiant or … Or… Or…

    I believe you’re wrong anyway as the country does seem to be more sympathetic to Unions judging by the response of the actor’s strike, the autoworkers union issues… UPS… Teacher’s Union… And so on.

  2. Here goes Gary Leff, carrying management’s water once again.

    I got a solution for you: Why don’t you tell these overpaid, unaccountable CEOs to actually bargain and put those who care for us passengers first?

    Neither you nor I want a FA strike. Serious aviation journalists want stability not the CHAOS that is the fault of those who take millions in salary & billions in bailouts for their airlines while FAs need to claim public benefit to survive. Don’t you see that’s the problem? That this is not a feasibile economic model in the 2020s? That some reckless people want the airlines to become more like public transit – and I have some experience – and less like a buisness providing some joy of flight?

    Finally, please watch “Fly With Me” on PBS. You might be enlightened.

    I get nothing for my advocacy here.

  3. “Generally speaking, pilots lean conservative and flight attendants lean liberal…”

    That is probably largely related to gender. Men are more logical and women are more emotional.

    Also, like most people, The Galley Llama doesn’t understand the meaning of the term “fascist”.

  4. I agree with other commentators, but in the end, America gets what they get. If the actual “inconvenience” of a strike results in people electing someone they think would be able to better control “the laborers” given his excellence and general history of creating amazing businesses with many satisfied past business partners and employees, then it is what it is, what is. Many already believe Americas is no longer “for the people”, but is “of the corporation, for the corporation and by the…” so it wouldn’t be all that surprising.

  5. AA flight attendents did strike!!
    1993 strike
    More than 90 percent of the 21,000 members honored the 11-day strike called on November 18, virtually shutting the airline down. On November 22 President Bill Clinton intervened in the labor dispute and persuaded both sides to submit to binding arbitration ending the 11- day strike on its 5th day.

  6. The Economist just started running its daily model which is 10,000 simulations. Today it has Trump at 292 and Biden at 242 electoral college votes. It is NOT a tossup at this time, but Election Day is 21 weeks from now. A lot can still change in either direction.

  7. Blames the flight attendants for wanting to strike… Why not blame AA management for having their employees strike and thus the election of Trump? I mean AA could end it tomorrow by you know paying their flight attendants properly… Just seems like Gary has it out for flight attendants, not sure why.

  8. There is literally no advocacy in this post.

    There is no expression about a preferred outcome in the election.

    Choosing to strike may have a political consequence, which may be desirable or undesirable depending on your point of view.

    Saying that drawing that consequence out favors one side or another simply reveals the preferences of the person commenting.

  9. @The Galley Llama – none of this has to do with sympathy towards flight attendants. People can broadly be sympathetic to workers who have seen the value of their wages eroded by inflation, but make their voting decision on the basis on pocketbook issues like rising airfares, and economic consequences of effectively shutting down the largest airline

  10. I’ve been in favor of the FAs getting a solid raise plus pay for boarding time. I think they do deserve it.
    However, it’s difficult to support a union who treats their members with such little regard as to pass up an immediate 17% pay raise. Let’s face it, the only reason the union rejected this offer is for fear it makes management look a little better in the eyes of membership.

  11. I am not sure it is reasonable to think AA or its labor situation is going to change the outcome of the Presidential election. There are far bigger factors affecting far more people.

    APFA spent years pushing completely unreasonable demands which have pushed the entire settlement process well out of sight. AA’s finances relative to the industry have deteriorated post covid. APFA has shown signs of becoming more reasonable; AA is not about to settle until APFA is much weaker and the cost of a new settlement is much lower.

    Every day rank and file FAs are collateral damage. Plain and simple.

    APFA is probably the weakest airline union in the country. AA is the financially weakest airline that has an open labor situation. Those two things are toxic combinations.

  12. This is one of the dumbest political takes I’ve ever seen in my 47 years walking this earth. And I grew up in Washington DC, so I’ve already seen 7 lifetimes of dumb takes.

  13. @Tim “I am not sure it is reasonable to think AA or its labor situation is going to change the outcome of the Presidential election.” The election appears VERY, VERY CLOSE.

  14. A full no terminal date strike isn’t the only option. of authorized.

    They can engage in targeted strikes on certain days that don’t result in extended chaos but do put further pressure on biz travel bookings.

  15. I have Trump set as winning Michigan, Wisconsin and perhaps even Pennsylvania. I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats lose an edge in Minnesota as the Mondale-supporters are no longer around like they used to be and more and more of their adult children have shifted more to to center and the right.

    If Trump and Biden are both still standing on their own feet in November, Trump will beat Biden because Biden is finished in most of the swing states Biden picked up from Trump’s 2016 election.

  16. @Greg – targeted strikes is what they are most likely to do, however that is going to effectively mean people do not book American Airlines, their capacity is mostly gone from the system. With all that travel demand descending on United, Delta, et al airfares will skyrocket as I explain in the piece.

  17. Gary,
    no doubt.
    I just don’t think even AA FAs are going to be voting based on what happens at AA and w/ their job.
    The rest of the country is motivated by very different issues.
    Increased auto insurance rates hurt US consumers far more than a strike or even a lockout by AA would affect American consumers.
    and if AA wants to lockout the union, they are just biding their time for another 8-10 weeks because of the timing of demand; they could care less about the election.

  18. It is in everyone’s best interest at AA not to strike.
    Both sides benefit from customer $$.
    Customers who are left stranded or have to cancel a vacation will not be sympathetic to the airline, for a long time. As far as political outcomes, maybe this leads to $1.87 per gallon unleaded?

  19. A lot of 2020 Biden ground workers and voters — especially in swing states — are not happy with Biden, and so Netanyahu will get his way while Biden is President and even more when Trump is President.

    The question is if “Republicans support reproductive choice for rapists but are anti-choice for women” type campaign ads can run up turnout for Biden. It is harder to up the ground game and get it right when the candidate is not exciting. And even a “scary” opponent isn’t necessarily scaring them because “scary” has been in the office before and they see a corporate and military industrial complex apologist either way.

    “Pick your poison.” Or pick your Vice President as the odds are that one or both of these old men are either going to croak or end up incapacitated by health issues before January 20, 2029.

  20. @ Gary — Sadly, this election will be an Orange landslide. The morons of our country will get what they vote for. If they think inflation has been bad, just wait, it will be 8-9% per year under the idiot. Let’s not forget his newly-minted campaign slogan, “I don’t care about you. I just want your vote.”

  21. If I’m not mistaken, the fired SW FA had her rights violated as affirmed by the courts…don’t know if she was reinstated with back pay

  22. “The morons of our country will get what they vote for.” Just like they did with Biden. When will people figure this out?

  23. @Gary – if there is no advocacy in your article, why is the heading “How American Airlines Flight Attendants May Hand The Election To Donald Trump” and not “How American Airlines Management May Hand The Election to Donald Trump”? Your choice of language makes out that it is the flight attendants who drive this and not a management that has failed to offer an adequate contract for 5 years.

    If you wanted this to be truly not about advocacy you’d have titled the article “How the outcome of contract negotiations at American Airlines may impact the election” which is far more neutral

  24. @Andy – simple, because flight attendants would be choosing to strike.

    American is happy to let the status quo prevail (which I have criticized extensively, I was literally the first to write about Boston-based first and second year flight attendants at American being eligible for food stamps, a narrative that the union began pushing to media after I uncovered it).

    And American last week offered an immediate 17% raise while continuing to negotiate.

    The strike is an affirmative decision for the union to make, whether or not you think it is justified. So the question is, how does that choice play out?

  25. Whoever wins the Presidency, hope the other party controls Congress, forcing compromise. Seems research shows divided government generally produces better outcomes. One, and maybe the only, thing I liked about Trump: he recognized tiny “countries” like France and England for what they really are – equivalent of one of our states, with less GDP than California, and not deserving of recognition as a major power, and certainly not a permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

  26. Not sure why there’s so much hate for Gary for an interesting political take when we’re talking about a current president that was the first to walk a picket line with the UAW and probably the most labor friendly president since… I don’t even know?

    And a republican candidate that made more inroads toward blue union workers than any republican in decades (not saying I get how any blue union guy votes for trump on anything union related but that’s besides the point)

    Of course union workers (apfa or not) are going to make a heavy difference in the major rust belt union-heavy swing states this election.

    To ignore that is just ignorance. I want the APFA members to get a significant raise as much as the next guy but ignoring the consequences of a strike or the impacts of not allowing a strike by the administration is just ignorance and looking at your own self interest, consequences be damned.

  27. You need to read the Railway Labor Act. In it is the following…

    “If the National Mediation Board (NMB) determines that a dispute could significantly disrupt interstate commerce and deprive a region of essential transportation services, it can notify the President. The President may then issue an Executive Order to create a Presidential Emergency Board to investigate the dispute and make recommendations. The parties must maintain the status quo for 30 days after the board issues its report.”

    A strike at any of the big 4 carriers will meet this test. The NMB will send the notification to the White House (just before the 30-day cooling off is expired). No president, Republican or Democrat, will take the political heat of a major airline strike. If the 30-day cooling off expires, a PEB will be called. Just how it is now.

    If the parties still cannot reach a deal as a result of the PEB, another 30-day cooling off period starts. This time only Congress can halt a potential strike, AND THEY WILL, by enacting legislation that creates an agreement largely containing the terms suggested in the PEB report.

    The same scenario was playing out prior to the railroad negotiations a couple of years ago. Either way…there would not have been a strike.

    The RLA needs fixing.

  28. @Gary – But AA Management is CHOOSING to reject the Union’s offer. The Union has made it very clear that when they are able to, they will be striking. In fact it would be so irrational to negotiate for 5 years with little to no power, and then finally be granted some leverage, only to then choose not to use that leverage for the small chance there is a political implication that changes an election… You have chosen to focus on a choice that has already been made and is not actually up for debate so that you could advocate against flight attendants.

    The only open choices right now in these negotiations is whether the Union bends to the management offer on the table (which I presume is higher than the 17% they offered) or if management bends to the Union which I think they are asking for 28% plus retro pay – or more likely a little bending on both sides. So why don’t you adjust your writing to better reflect the possible outcomes here?

  29. Just because AA hasn’t said they would not lockout the FAs doesn’t mean they won’t.
    In regards to the “no strings” 17% pay offer, that just gives AA even more time to drag their feet for even more time. It’s time for Isom to either sh*t or get off the pot.
    I doubt that AA would allow a 30 day cooling off period to elapse without getting serious. It would seem having the NMB declare an impasse is what’s needed for AA to finally get interested in finishing a deal.

  30. Yeah, it would be AA FA’s fault, nothing to do with the walking corpse in the WH, his disastrous policies, his weakness that emboldened our enemies, the chaos he unleashed on the border and in cities, the lawlessness on campuses, the out of control inflation…nah, it’s the FAs striking. Do you really believe this drivel?

  31. Inexcusable red-baiting drivel. Notice how people always empathize with pilots but not flight attendants, who can barely afford a place to live? Get real. It’s up to AA management to agree to what the union wants, not the other way around.

  32. Gary you make me laugh with some of your articles. Such a stealth troll. It’s fun to watch it unfold in the comments too.

  33. So what’s your point? You think that by throwing out there this random statement that the flight attendants are just gonna go, “Okay, gee, the 500 other stupid things that Biden has done won’t make him loose the election but our cause might do we better just be idiots and let the pilots and the CEO get all the money and we flight attendants will take the back seat again like always.” NOT!!! It’s not going happen. Nice try but now you’re sounding desperate and PATHETIC!

  34. @david p

    Airlines do pay flight attendants for boarding time through a pay mechanism that was negotiated with the union in previous contract cycles.

    If the union negotiate a higher boarding pay, their flight pay will go down. It’s all about the total compensation package.

    In actuality, do they think their lives would be easier if the FELON candidate replaces* the NMB members with right-wing anti-unionists? There are only 3 seats. All 3 positions are open for the next POTUS to fill. As a unionist, I am not willing to take this chance.

    *see SCOTUS

  35. So what’s your point? You think that by throwing this random statement out there that the flight attendants are just gonna go, “Okay, gee, the 500 other stupid things that Biden has done won’t make him loose the election but our cause might so we better just be idiots and let the pilots and the CEO get all the money and we flight attendants will take the back seat again like always.” NOT!!! It’s not going happen. Nice try but now you’re sounding desperate and PATHETIC!

  36. Please do not group that orange fascist dotard in the same group as American Airlines FAs! They are far above him on the evolution and intelligence scale.

  37. This blog has never been shy of being opinionated, but at least most my lurking has been reading about airlines. Now it swings into the election and politics?

  38. Majority wants Trump back. People are tired of lies that Democr5are peddling on a daily basis. Besides elderly abuse must stop – send Biden home or to jail.

  39. Gary, just say who you want to win instead of trying to bullshit your way through. One of the few posts you decide not to argue against is James N who rambles ironically about how women are different than men, and that “men are more rational”.

    Man up if you’re going to say agree with something so stupid. He post multiple times on this same thread and you don’t argue with him in any case.

  40. @Robert G – what on earth are you talking about? I chose not to argue stupid political stuff in the comments here, I tried to lay out in the post and in the early comments that this wasn’t about who you preferred to win an election. I personally did not support Trump in 2016 or 2020 (well documented here) and do not plan to vote for him in 2024. But most readers seem to have trouble discerning my politics, complaining that I am both conservative and left-wing, probably because when I call out stupidity on one side they assume I must be coming from the other side.

  41. Stories and comments from FF blogs tend to run absurd, which is one of the reasons why I like reading them. It’s written by and for ‘let them eat cake’ entitlement elitist – like a United 1ker on Adderall with his emotional support Chihuahua.

    The AA FAs might swing the election? Gee, I thought it was the last 3.5 years of the Earth engulfed by never ending war, the chaos and death it brings and the crushing of the working middle class by Biden/Uniparty inflation/energy/immigration /welfare policies that push Wall Street and other special interest groups profits to the stratosphere.

    The human condition hasn’t changed since day one. Too many people are driven solely by emotion. For far too many the world can burn and the working middle class can be crushed as long as they can scream – orange man bad. Adult emotional children, please, grow up.

  42. It’s funny how irrational, self absorbed, entitled, tone deaf and hateful the Left is.

    It’s beyond obvious – even before Gary came out and said it – he does not support Trump. Why write an article about how the AA FAs strike would put Trump in office (absurd) and why the strike must be averted!

    The Leftie FAs can’t understand how you can be against their strike and be anti Trump – because, self absorbed entitlement!

  43. Gary, your tone makes pretty clear how you feel about Trump’s election chances. You’re subtle, but not quite subtle enough….

    Also, MAGA you motherf***ers!

    Cannot wait for Trump to prosecute EVERYBODY in the Biden administration.

  44. “He post multiple times on this same thread and you don’t argue with him in any case.”

    And neither do you. If you’re so certain my position is “stupid”, it should be easy for you to explain why. Of course, you may be one of those individuals who doesn’t “think” there’s any difference between males and females.

  45. There was yet another huge overperformance by Democrats in Ohio just this week, but keep ignoring how they’ve overperformed ever since the Supreme Handmaidens overturned Roe v. Wade.

    And polls haven’t gotten anything right now for at least a decade.

Comments are closed.