Negotiations Fail: American Airlines Flight Attendants Told To Prepare To Strike

The American Airlines flight attendants union has told its members,

We do not believe further negotiations will be scheduled prior to the National Mediation Board determining to release the parties into a thirty-day cooling-off period. All American Airlines Flight Attendants should prepare for an upcoming strike.

According to the email, the union and company “remain apart on the key issues” including the date on which wages increases begin and on retro pay. Retro pay was expected to be the biggest issue, even as American increased its pay offer and the union reduced its demands.

  • Flight attendants haven’t had a pay increase since January 1, 2019. Their contract became amendable four and a half years ago.

  • Normally you would expect a signing bonus of some kind, but not a full make-good on lost raises for four and a half years. However Southwest Airlines just did a new flight attendant contract that included retro pay.

From the specifics of the union email it sounds as though progress was made in talks in each of the last two weeks. That suggests there is plenty of ground for the National Mediation Board not to declare an impasse since the parties are getting closer. However the union believes that they will do so.

  • The National Mediation Board must first declare an impasse
  • That starts a 30-day cooling off period
  • After which the parties can choose to engage in “self-help” including a strike

The union does not have to strike right away, and they’ve talked about targeting specific flights that might change each day, rather than an all-out work stoppage, in order to get most crewmembers paid while still causing maximum disruption to the airline. The union lacks the cash to fund strike payments and has told flight attendants to prepare to miss credit card payments.

Even if a 30-day cooling off period starts, it is possible that the parties could avoid a strike. Hopefully they will manage that, because a strike doesn’t benefit either side. Junior flight attendants can’t afford to go without pay. The airline already has challenges affording what they’re offering in negotiations.

The biggest beneficiary of a strike, and any resulting higher wages, will be unions at United and Alaska that are negotiating contracts. Parties will view what American Airlines flight attendants achieve as a starting point – without first having to go through a strike.

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. @Cairns, good work! I’m proud of you for earning your bachelors!

    But alas, your qualifications have no bearing on the right of flight attendants to strike or their argument that they should earn a living wage.

    I’d also add, 6 weeks is actually pretty low for the industry but from what I understand it is very intensive and the failure and drop-out rate is extremely high. Then they have to do regular trainings every year back at the training center plus regular remote training each quarter.

    Unlike most jobs that require a university degree where you apply little of the knowledge you learned during your studies and rather apply a way of thinking and critical thinking skillset. In-flight aviation workers (both FAs and pilots) have to have instant recall of everything they are trained to do and be able to apply it at a moment’s notice. It is not a game of being able to google it when the plane is going down, it is about flipping into action and doing it – I encourage you to watch Captain Sully talk about his FAs whipping into action when he announced they were going to do a water landing, it was not a situation of working out what to do, it was a situation of just doing it.

    I like you have a university degree, in fact my partner (who is an FA) does too, she’s just chosen to pursue flying instead. I understand where you’re coming from in thinking that you should earn more because you trained more, but I don’t think you understand or respect the different kind of training FAs receive. This is not a role that is about intelligence, skill, talent or anything like that, they are paid to act as safety professionals when crap its the fan (or birds hit the turbofan…)

  2. Movie theaters teach their employees how to use an AED and how to point to the door incase of a fire also.
    Nobody is doing a dummy-drag of anybody…..or whatever delusions that flight attendants have come up with after 9/11.
    It’s nice that Sully was willing to give a little of the spotlight to the flight attendants….even though the one in the aft opened the door almost sinking the aircraft….then she blamed it on a passenger. How many flight attendants did you see “dragging” anyone onto the wings?….
    Yeah, neither did I.
    If 7-Eleven workers decide to strike tomorrow, it would be fine. I’ll just go to Wawa.
    AA needs to let this go on. Lest see how long these flight attendants are willing to stick it out with $200 pay checks after they’ve gone ChAoS!!!!!! Starve them, fire them, rebuild the airline with personnel who actually WANT to be there and do a good job…..hell,then give the newbies a raise….say 17% or so.
    AA will emerge stronger, better and more efficient without the current deadweight losers that fill the flight attendants ranks.

  3. US Surgeon General has the right idea. The hatred and bitterness that is spewed on these comment sections only adds to his argument. I feel that 90% of these people playing Keyboard Cowboy are junior high schoolers or prisoners on an hour of free time out of their cell. Terrible. I can’t even imagine saying these things and getting a feel good kick out of it. What a miserable way to live.

  4. @Flyer
    Oh I’ve seen some flight attendant forums (reddit, fb etc.) You really can’t imagine saying such things? Those pages are chock full of the contempt that you have for us.
    The feeling is mutual.

  5. “In-flight aviation workers (both FAs and pilots) have to have instant recall of everything they are trained to do and be able to apply it at a moment’s notice.”

    Is safety is kept in mind when flight attendants put down tray tables to block seats in entire areas and use seat belts to block areas so they can congregate in them without the riffraff (passengers) bothering them. Undoing those blockages during a stressful time due to an emergency adds stress and lessens time to take the actual correct actions by flight attendants.

  6. The 12 year old girl running a lemonade stand on the corner would be a HUGE improvement over the typical AA flight attendant! I know it, you know it, we all know it.

  7. @jns. The seats blocked by the United FA with tray tables was an exit row. It is against FAA regulations for anyone to sit there that was not briefed on the ground… free upgrades are also not allowed by any airline and FAs are encouraged by MANAGEMENT to ensure that no one does it.

    FAs are also allowed to block access to anywhere in the plane, they often block galley area access for safety reasons e.g, a pilot being there or there’s too much crowding in the area. I mean I’m not saying everyone does everything right, I’m just saying you appear to have no knowledge of what you’re talking about.

  8. Hey Chris Your the dead weight loser flight attendants serve each day! An entitled, ignorant asshole who thinks the world revolves around them! I’m sure where ever you work you don’t deserve the job or a raise! You know very little about what’s going on at AA to
    Make any judgement on someone else’s job! I can only hope this type of thing happens to a LOSER like you!

  9. @Frank
    How do I know what’s going on at AA? I frequently experience your abysmal service. That’s how I can make my judgement.
    If you provided even a barely pleasant service experience then I could see offering some support but you don’t.
    To use a favorite of the Gen Z crowd, you’ve been “quiet quitting” for years.
    Poor performance should never be rewarded. I really hope that you step on your own d*** with your antics and come out the other side of this without the job that you don’t deserve. Hopefully AA will emerge better and with more motivated new employees after they’ve flushed you out.
    You want more money? Earn it.

  10. People who like Chris who make nasty comments like he does , are people who are just miserable in their own life, so It makes them feel better by talking down to other people it takes the focus off their own lives.
    Signed: A Licensed Psychiatrist. (LCDC)

  11. People like Tim who lie about having various occupational licenses when they probably don’t even have a driver’s license are usually lazy/unmotivated people who end up taking jobs as AA flight attendants instead of getting some education, a better attitude and a bit of self discipline to get the job (and the pay) that they really want.
    It’s just easier to complain about how “unfair” everything is I guess.

  12. I was a flight attendant for 26 years, and most of the public have no idea what we go through on a daily basis when flying trips. We have to be UP at a moments notice sometimes, and fly at 38,000 feet for anywhere from 7 to 14 hours on International fights ( YES most of the time its the “graveyard shift” which does all kinds of awful things to our bodies. We are most always sleep deprived, and through all of this we have to be alert at all times during flight incase of an emergency. We also usually only get between 14 to 22 hours of layover time & thats on International layovers. On Domestic layovers its mostly 10 to 14 hours!! GONE are the once 24 & 32 hour layovers of the olden days. The bases are in mostly expensive Cities so FLIGHT ATTENDANTS most certainly should be paid a good living wage. The AA flight attendants are not asking for anymore then they DESERVE.

  13. Chris,

    Don’t come to United. I can promise you abysmal service with that attitude.

    A UA flight attendant in solidarity with AA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *