In Revolutionary Move, Delta Will Start Paying Flight Attendants For Time Spent During Boarding

Delta has made a move that’s going to be a huge hit with employees, and engender jealousy across the industry. Flight attendants are getting a raise, and it’s coming in the form of addressing a real sore spot in compensation. This could keep unionization at bay, while trolling employees of their biggest competitors. Already I’m hearing from cabin crew at other airlines who are up in arms over their own pay.

Flight attendants are generally paid a wage based on how long their flights are, and this doesn’t usually include time spent boarding – which can be one of the most stressful and hard-working times during a flight. Still, this isn’t an accident:

  • Flight attendants get more money for the time they are paid to account for boarding
  • Flight attendants generally want it this way since they negotiate it as part of union contracts, it’s a perennial sore spot.

Earlier this year a petition obtained over 160,000 signatures to get flight attendants paid during boarding, even though ‘not paying for boarding time’ has been viewed as an elegant solution to a complex problem. Flight attendants don’t want to clock in and out of each flight to the minute, separate from checking in to work the flight. And when a flight is delayed, causing the airline boards more quickly, flight attendants don’t want to make less money because boarding took less time.

Delta, though, is going to pay a flat amount of time based on scheduled boarding. This coincides with moving boarding time 5 minutes earlier for domestic mainline flights, and in an internal communication the airline describes it as “an industry first.” The new pay is in addition to profit sharing announced in March, and pay increases that go into effect in May.

Here are the new pay rates based on seniority. There’s an hourly wage and it’s paid out (pro-rated) based on the amount of time boarding is scheduled for:

Delta is mostly non-union (pilots and dispatchers are unionized). The airline’s messaging hasn’t always been spot on trying to stop union drives. Both Sara Nelson and the International Association of Machinists have wanted to represent flight attendants at Delta.

This move is clearly designed to keep unionization at bay. It’s something unions at other airlines haven’t been able to win, and ‘lack of pay during boarding’ is something that many flight attendants across airlines resent.

It could also start a new trend across the industry. American’s flight attendants union is currently in contract negotiations. It’ll be hard for them to sell a contract to their membership that doesn’t include what Delta flight attendants are getting and that will be fresh on everyone’s mind. What good is the APFA, if they can’t deliver what flight attendants can get without a union?

At most airlines pay based on scheduled door close/door open time is exactly how flight attendants have agreed to be paid in contracts negotiated by their unions. It’s taken a non-union airline to change this. And it was only just before the pandemic that Delta already unilaterally gave its non-union employees a big raise, and then they didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic while unions failed to prevent furloughs at American and United.

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. How many hours (door closed to open) does an average FA work per month and what is the normal pay? And then how many hours in that month are they on the plane….from boarding until they exit the plane?

  2. Thank goodness for unions (or in this case, even a mere threat of more unionizing) to keep greedy corporations in check

  3. This is testament that Delta has the resources to change the industry – it will clearly cost Delta hundreds of millions of dollars per year, esp. since Delta operates more short-haul domestic flights on its own aircraft than any other airline except for Southwest (which might be the real target).

    Of course, it also means that there will undoubtedly be alot more requirements that gate agents get to cry foul if FAs don’t board when asked -although Delta consistently boards flights with more than enough time. Delta FAs are also some of the most engaged in boarding but I’m sure there will be higher accountability that they are doing what Delta wants.

    Good for Delta and good for their FAs.

    I would get that the attractiveness to bid and work short flights goes up a whole lot.

  4. Well, hopefully this will help the cranky old rachets from taking it out on the passengers.

  5. In other news the Delta Sky Pesos program just increased the cost of all mileage redemption 100% effective May 1 to help cover the increased labor costs
    Bend over folks no smooth ride here just turbulence in those skies

  6. The added costs will have to come from somewhere. Smaller raises in the future, reduced “wage benefits”, reduction in employees, or higher fares and/or lower profits. TNSTAAFL

  7. Lol Delta just threw a lit match into contract negotiations. And Bob is right, unions help their members.

  8. Leave it to Delta Airlines to develop a newfangled business approach of paying non-union flight attendants for their pre-departure labor and even offering stellar customer service before the pilot releases the parking brake.

  9. Fair move. It never made sense why flight attendants are not paid for time they are required to be there. This fact was reflected in higher pay during flights but delays would negate this. Flight attendants do have legitimate gripes. It’s unfortunate so many of them at the big 3 and even JetBlue are Karens who are 20-30 years past their due date as flight attendants. Europe uses young people who are eager, cheerful, have fun, and take pride in doing their jobs. That’s possible for 10 years. 40 and 50 year old Karens have no place as flight attendants. Stop holding us back. They were the ones who enforced the mask rule when they could have easily minded their own business and twiddled their thumbs in their jump seat while being miserable about having to serve drinks.

  10. Overpaid skywaitresses with attitude problems getting more money. Cool. When will they start doing their jobs again?

  11. The end of PDBs on AA…at least until the next contract.

    Come on…we’re all thinking it.

  12. the most junior FA who gets stuck with the shortest flights used to make $128/d on a 4 1hr segments day and will now make $192/d. very generous to those who need it most. for the matrons on 10hr transcons, this is a rounding error.

  13. It is unconscionable, unjust, and exploitative that Flight Attendants are mostly not paid during boarding. Corporate greed at its finest.

  14. Very interesting. Will this mean Delta FAs will be in a better mood now? Will PDBs be offered more regularly?

  15. Delta currently has the best FA’s consistently in the sky. No, flight attendants are not flying waitresses. How about all of crap they take from passengers including assault? Especially the spoiled ever complaining old people up front! And… your company Is footing the bill anyways mostly. Stay home than. Where your sheltered from the world & its nasty people trying to help you.

  16. I see many comments about PDB’s. I am flight crew at Delta. Since the pandemic, PDB’s have been suspended and are still currently suspended until meals are brought back. That should be sometime in May, 2022. So just know, at Delta, the majority of us have no issues doing them.

    However, it can be challenging on the large narrow body jets as there’s a lot of pressure: to keep boarding flowing, not stopping people to do PDB’s, and getting that on-time departure, etc. (Some Gate agents actually get very upset when we stop the flow of boarding to do PDB’s). That’s just the tip of the ice burg. So it’s just finding the balance of pleasing all stakeholders, especially our passengers – who come first anyway.

    For me personally, I can bust out PDB’s quickly – but I need y’all to take your seats quickly so I can get to it (in my joking, but serious voice).

    We truly don’t mind getting PDB’s out to everyone, and I think the additional five minutes will help ensure that once PDB’s are brought back, y’all get them.

    I know they are important when purchasing a premium product as I, myself prefer to purchase the premium cabin when I fly and I want my PDB too 🙂

  17. After having to put up with combative mask holes for a couple years, it’s about time. Other airlines will follow suit to maintain the status quo.

  18. Very hostile remarks toward flight attendants. I just retired as a Aircraft Mechanic, 38 years. Right up to the day I retired , it never ceased to amaze me how passengers would walk onto an aircraft and turn into Dr Jeckyl even before their greeted then turn it on the Flight Attendants.. The flight Attendants spend mucho time at an airport before their flight because it is required they do. I’m sorry it took this long but Delta always seemed to be on the cutting edge of employee compensation. It was the best airline I worked for and I started out with Republic/ Northwest. As far as the comparison of the older to the younger ones, the older ones are past trying to hook up with a business person or a Pilot and if it took the older ones to enforce a rule that could have cost airline fines, we’ll that’s where experience comes in..

  19. Smart Business Move. Lee Iacocca said, “Unions are a Direct result of poor Management”…

  20. timj,
    if employees make more without a union, then what precisely is the value of a union?
    Keep in mind that Delta is forecasting strong profitability this year and paid the highest profit sharing in corporate America – not just among airlines – pre-pandemic so DL FAs might well end up seeing the biggest increases in compensation in the airline industry.


  22. @Mark… by giving flight attendants a better deal than they’d get with a union, since the airline is more profitable without one, and without having to pay dues to the union.

    What good is a union that hasn’t been able to get this from any other airline?

  23. This is also great for gate agents, who are only allowed to begin boarding at D-35. If you have unaccompanied minors, and 3 or 4 wheelchair passengers to board, it’s just not enough time. I remember begging flight attendants to allow me to start at D-37 just to help in these situations. It can often be a negotiation just to get those 2-3 extra minutes!

  24. Both of my parents flew. Y’all with your catty remarks about senior FAs make me sick. I hope someone goes to your place of business, sits their a— down in front of you, and for hours proceeds to burp, fart, yell, demand alcohol and food, and refuse to follow simple procedures that kindergartners can do, all while criticizing your looks.

    This news makes me more likely to fly Delta.

  25. @Keith, Hi Keith…yes I completely agree. I’ve been flying for 39 years and am so used to hostile remarks from people for my career choice. I used to let it bother me and then one day my retired Captain dad and husband said, you know these folks that sit behind their computers spewing this angry stuff about your profession would give their right arm to see and do what you have done all these years. Most of them are unemployed and do nothing but like to stir the pot. Now I just laugh. If they were to come to my home right now and see where I live or meet my family they would never say such things. I just carry on my way doing my thing and being the person I am. They can continue all this useless hate. I can’t even imagine saying things like that about people or their career choices. Anyway, thanks Keith for keeping us all safe in the sky for 38 years. None of us (flight crew and passengers) could do it without all the GREAT mechanics!!! We truly appreciate it! Thank you. As for @Alan, @Jackson Waterson and @Fred I hope you all have a nice day with your family or friends. Get out of the house and burn off some hate and anger. It shortens your life.

  26. and Delta has long paid its employees better than at other airlines which resists the “temptation” to choose unions.
    A senior Delta flight attendant has had the chance to vote in more union elections than just about any other workgroup in US corporate history.
    In contrast to other companies, Delta’s strategy which clearly wins is to make its employees richer.

    And, of course, Delta holds its employees to higher levels of performance – which the airline then turns into a revenue premium that it gets for better service.

    With the prospect of a very turbulent summer operationally, Delta could be making the very best move to ensure its operations run smoothly.

  27. TWA Child – shut up. It is literally the job of the skywaitresses to bring me food and drink.

  28. @Fred, I don’t know if you’re just trolling to piss people off but “Sky waitresses” deserve your respect. Their “JOB” is to save your ass, not kiss it! Serving food and drink is secondary.

    787 Captain

  29. Jay bird – no, and your bias is showing. Their job is EXACTLY to kiss my ass, because the vast majority of them NEVER do anything remotely “life saving”. They, and you, are customer service monkeys.

    With a power complex that you’ve gotten away with lately. Those days are over.

    You – shut up and fly the plane. Them – shut up and get me a drink. THAT is your job.

  30. @Fred…now that you’ve decided to tell everybody else what their job is, I think it’s time to tell you what yours is but I’m too much of a lady to spell it out. In fact, it’s anatomically impossible but I’m sure if it was possible you could handle it. Have a really great day Fredrica.

  31. @LCat , I can bet dollars for doughnuts this Fred turd is unemployed and lives in moms basement.

  32. The Big D must be running scared! There is nothing “Revolutionary” about this change except that it has taken three decades of demanding it.

    Whew, did you get your third predeparture beverage? (Otherwise, “the upgrade is not worth it.”), and has the flight attendant hung up your Members Only jacket yet?

  33. “And it was only just before the pandemic that Delta already unilaterally gave its non-union employees a big raise, and then they didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic while unions failed to prevent furloughs at American and United.”
    Question is “Why do some people WANT to unionize where their working conditions and pay are better than at companies where some Union boss extorts both the company and the employees? Well, turns out it’s the Union bosses who solicit and enlist a few workers to push unions in good companies. There is certainly a need for the right to unionize, and there have certainly been times when it was necessary to gain a decent wage or working conditions. But forcing everyone at a company to pay Union dues when they were happier without the Union bosses is extortion pure and simple. Good for Delta if they recognized an important employee issue and addressed it regardless of reason. Now we’ll see if the Unionized airlines can make their employees happy after drawn out, tough -fought contract negotiations.

  34. It’s about time!
    When a flight attendant is greeting and helping people board an aircraft, especially large capacity planes, they are working! The extra pay should also extend to deplaning passengers. Hello, hello, hi, welcome, nice to see you. Good-bye, good-bye, By now, so long, thank you, hope to see you again.

  35. When I worked for a railroad, I was paid from my call time until my crew tied up for the day. Any minute that we were required to be available to work was paid, whether I was prepping the train, on a moving engine, or sitting in the yard office.

    For the life of me, I have never understood why airlines aren’t the same – and how it’s illegal to require a person to remain on airline/airport property while not paying them. IMHO, if a crew has to show up at 9:30 AM and is not released to go back home (or to a layover hotel) until 7 PM, then they should be paid from 9:30 AM until 7 PM, regardless of what percentage of that time is spent sitting at the airport or on a moving plane. ‍♂️

  36. The author may wish to review the FA Class Action case Oman -v Delta Air Lines which the US Supreme Court DENIED a Delta appeal in January 2022.

    The argument of the case was unpaid time ie “boarding pay”

    This decision by Delta to begin paying “boarding pay” has NOTHING to do with any union and LOTS to do with litigation over the issue.

    By the way, no flight attendant union even submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case! That says a lot.

    Ask me. I was a named plaintiff in Oman v Delta Air Lines.

  37. @Michael Lehr – that’s a California state wage and hours case, and the only role of the Supreme Court was in denying cert with respect to the federal supremacy issue of the Airline Deregulation Act (the Supreme Court denies cert in virtually all cases!).

  38. And the litigation stands. Research the case and it’s filings for more details. It was complex and more than just a wage and hours case.

  39. Good on Delta! Keeping the union away is best for Delta and it’s great employees. Unions are nothing more than parasitic extortionists… Plain and simple

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