On Monday, American Airlines Flight Attendants Will Announce Plan To Strike Over Christmas

American Airlines flight attendants have been in protracted negotiations over a new contract. Cabin crew voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. The airline and union met for federal mediation talks on Friday, and the union set that as a deadline for significant progress. They said that after the meeting the union board would hold a strike vote.

The union plans to make an announcement on Monday.

This afternoon, your APFA Negotiating Committee met with your Board of Directors to brief them on the status of negotiations, including the next step: a request to the National Mediation Board to release us into a thirty-day cooling-off period.

On Monday, November 20th, we will communicate information regarding this week’s negotiations and next steps, including the APFA Board of Director’s action on the request to the NMB to be released to strike.

The union suggests they will be asking the National Mediation Board to release them from negotiations, starting a 30 day ‘cooling off’ period that would allow them to strike.

  • If the request is formally made right away
  • And the request is formally granted right away
  • Then they’d be striking over the peak Christmas holiday period

As I wrote last month I still do not expect a Christmas strike.

  1. The National Mediation Board may take until, say, December 4 to release the union from negotiations – especially with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us. That would push any strike past Christmas.

  2. The NMB may not authorize the strike yet at all, telling flight attendants to stay at the bargaining table if they feel there’s progress still being made in negotiations.

  3. A ‘no’ or ‘delay’ seem more likely than ‘immediate authorization’, putting President Biden in a position of either intervening to prevent a strike or enduring a major airline strike over Christmas.

Even if flight attendants were to strike, they do not plan to do so in a way that shuts down the airline – just one that makes the airline less reliable, and pushes customers to book away to other airlines.

Since flight attendants aren’t financially in a position to strike for an extended period, and the union isn’t in a financial position to provide significant strike pay to workers, they’ll just walk off of a limited number of flights on specific days – to limit the hardship of workers who don’t collect pay when they do not work, while communicating that any given American Airlines flight might not operate (which is always true, given weather and mechanical vagaries).

An airline strike at Christmas, which the President is empowered to prevent, is not going to happen – because the President won’t want to incur unpopularity heading into an election from allowing the strike, but also won’t want to move against a union, so the most likely outcome is that the National Mediation Board punts to prevent putting him in that position.

While the National Mediation Board is an independent agency, two of its three board members were appointed or re-nominated by the Biden administration. The current chair, confirmed during the Biden administration, is a former attorney for the largest flight attendants union.

American Airlines is offering a pay comparable to Delta’s, though profit sharing will be lower because American earns less profit. American’s flight attendants want substantially more than current top of industry pay from an airline that just this week added a billion dollars of debt at 8.5% interest and lost money in the third quarter.

I’d note that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s claim about American Airlines flight attendants ‘sleeping in cars’ and separately about sleeping ‘eight to a room’ has to do with “crash pads” rather than primary residences, where crew share lodging near the airport when they live in a city that’s different from the one where they’re based for work.

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. Gary,

    Need to check the headline.
    I think you meant “Christmas”, not “Christman”

  2. Gary, while you are correct about the 1 billion in new debt at 8.5%, it is supposedly to be used to payoff outstanding senior secured notes that is at 11.75% due in 2025.

  3. AA flight attendants never do anything, except sit in the galley and yap away with other flight attendants.

  4. Lock them out, AA. You will get 100k apps in a week from young, eager workers who actually want to do the job. Unions are such trash. Only in it for themselves, while the general public suffers from higher costs and terrible service.

  5. Good for them.
    Greedy management got their raises, now its their turn.

    Thank goodness for unions standing up to corporate exploitation.

  6. They are delusional. If AA is offering the same pay at DL then the FAs should jump on it. To ask for more just isn’t going to happen and will only make the FAs unhappy with whatever agreement is reached since they will have been led to believe they would get a better one (similar to the GM workers that almost voted down the agreement reached by the UAW since some of the items demanded weren’t in the final agreement). Have to be careful over promising. Of course the AA FA union is one of the weakest anyway. Also, I bet AA will staff up reserves to help cover any flights that are “struck” and I seriously doubt the pilots or mechanics would honor an FA strike.

  7. Unions are a pox on society and are the antithesis of freedom and voluntary associations. It’s well beyond time to “level the playing field” and get government coercion out of labor markets.

  8. It’s amazing the negative comments by people who have never done the job or have no idea the horrors of AA management. I flew for 35 years and was lucky to get out. It’s not just the Delta match there are working conditions the travelling public has no idea about. The author of the website should investigate a bit more

  9. AC, educate yourself a bit more. The pilots and mechanics CANNOT honor the strike. 1993 all over again. Not sure why anyone on here really cares. Most of the comments always say they don’t fly AA anyway.

  10. @Stephen Mackler, people just like to complain and say nasty things because it’s the only thing they have in their life. Some of these folks commenting are in prison and allowed internet time. It’s their entertainment.

  11. I’ve flown on AA several times this year, including a couple of trips to and from Madrid. Just got back from a trip to NYC on Thurs.
    All Inflight staff were professional and pleasant on flights to and from LAX, JFK, MAD, CLT. Ground personnel were also good.
    Grateful that, in my experience, they didn’t let their union/company resentments interfere with passenger service.
    Briefly met some FAs at a Manhattan hotel, and they were very diplomatic in their response when I wished them luck with their union.

  12. Protections for poor performance and extreme benefit tilt for seniority have become the union norm. These are not good for the customers, the industries, nor the younger and/or higher performing workers. It’s no wonder that Delta, with the lowest union infiltration, is considered the best and most profitable major US airline.

  13. Oh for God’s sake, those of you who just have to comment about Gary’s occasional typographical errors, get a life. The guy does a great job of keeping us aware of developments and posting interesting anecdotes as well. YOU never make a typo error? Move on and quit wasting everyone else’s time with your inane comments.

  14. @mackler
    Wow… way to “get out” after retiring at 35 years
    If you don’t like the job or pay, leave it. I appreciate FAs a great deal but some of them really need to look in the mirror and realize they’re demanding more pay for a job that can easily be filled and they have no real skill set.

  15. Perfect time for the company to finally rid itself of this ridiculous union!!! 1/3 of the flight attendants cannot strike as they are brand new and not even covered by the union yet!! So many new hires will sink this union!! Fire all that strike and hire brand new FA’s without a union!

  16. As Gary writes, there is no way the feds will release AA FAs to strike by Christmas and it is doubtful that they would release them to self-help if AA is offering pay comparable to DL FAs.
    And if AA FAs want to push it all at some point, a little history lesson from Northwest might be helpful. NW managed to break their mechanics union; even though they had a rough year or so, NW survived and mechanics are much harder to replace than mechanics.
    By the time DL and NW merged, all other large workgroups from the combined workforce except the pilots (since they shared the same union) voted to dismantle their union representation. The combined mechanics never voted because the number of ex-NW mechanics was too small relative to the size of DL’s maintenance workforce and unions have never succeeded at organizing DL mechanics.

    So the APFA best tiptoe carefully or they might see the entire union dismantled.

  17. I don’t completely agree with second Jake’s assessment about FAs. Changing my screen name to disassociate lol.

  18. And the dispatchers, Tim 😉
    I don’t care if delta workforces unionize or not, but they’d have to be blind to forget what lack of representation cost them during the pandemic when delta unilaterally cut their hours by a third despite the federal government paying their salaries

  19. @ Tim Dunn, the only history lesson in need today is November 18, 1993.

    @ Jake, very funny. My husband who is in a completely different profession said he’d be fired within one hour as a flight attendant. It takes a lot of skill to do it right and most people don’t have that skill including you. I do. I’d give you about one flight JFK-MIA and you’d be crying in your coffee cup. You couldn’t hack it Jake.

  20. drone on, Max.
    Delta employees have had more than enough opportunities to unionize and have failed time after time.
    And unionized employees should be absolutely furious that their unions can’t deliver profit sharing as high as Delta gives its employees, even when they use the exact same formula. Delta employees are so highly paid NOW because Delta is much more profitable.

    and let’s not forget that AA and UA bragged that they were laying off non-union management staff during covid. but since you love to pit management against labor, you will never recognize that those people lost money despite government money.

    you do realize that airline unions have repeatedly been forced to compensate their members’ employers because they struck and slowed down the operation outside of authorized periods. If you want to strike as all other employees outside of the airline and railroad industries, work under the NLRB’s rules instead of the RLA

  21. Just lock them out. The youth of today have ZERO loyalty to trash unions and will apply in mass to replace these employees that don’t feel they are being compensated fairly for the level of skill they possess. If you don’t like the free market economics of your job, quit rather than hide behind a corrupt organization that constantly misuses your dues.

  22. Did Timmy really accuse someone else of “droning on?? Lmao. Hello kettle, this is pot. You’re black.

    Try to make some of your posts less than a wall of text, Timmy boy, and your ramblings will be read more often…and you’ll have more free time.

  23. yes, it is droning when max loves to pick anything to find fault w/ Delta – or anyone else – but conveniently ignores that Delta employees -not management – have eliminated more union positions than any other company. those are facts.

    And, max, I said LARGE employee groups. Delta also has unionized meteorologists IIRC, and yes, DL has its own in-house meteorology dept while many of its competitors outsource that function.

    The reason why APFA is asking for such large pay raises is because they know they won’t get retro pay and they will forever lose the extra pay that DL gave its FAs months ago.
    DL knows exactly what it is doing w/ labor costs in the industry and they also are more than happy to stir the pot w/ other airline employees and their failed unions that can’t deliver what DL pays its employees.
    It is not a surprise that you, a union card carrying airline employee, can’t see the truth.

  24. The falling rate of Union participation in America starting in the last 1970s can be directly related and linked to the precipitous decline of a working wage and the falling rate of job pay in America. Striking is one way of ensuring that greedy corporations pay their fair share to their workers,
    and I fully support American Airlines workers in their strike action.

    When will we collectively wake up and stop listening to ultra rich GOP Fascist Nazis who keep shouting how “bad” Unions are for us and our economy ?

    (Well, for them, that’s true… 🙂

  25. The AA flight attendants have not had a raise in 5 years. It is not unreasonable for them to ask for fair compensation. FA work many unpaid hours

  26. Delta is the world’s only PERFECT airline. Just as Tim Dunn. It’s quite sad that both he and Gary Leff are rooting for American to be liquidated. That’s why Leff nitpicks every tiny mistake American makes (some of which deserve criticism) in this blog, while ignoring or making excuses for the same kinds of mistakes made by others (remembering that Delta is PERFECT and is, therefore, incapable of error).

  27. huh?
    Gary just posted an article about AMS which is a tiny spot on AA’s route system but pretty significant for DL – and Gary didn’t exactly take DL’s side.

    And, no, DL is NOT the perfect airline. But Gary posts content which he knows will get page views. I am watching college football and interacting on Gary’s site.
    Gary lives in an AA-strong city and has status on them.

    And no one wants AA to be liquidated. but Delta’s labor is happy and has no significant contracts outstanding.
    And AA’s own management used DL FA compensation as the offer to its FAs. A mediator will see that as a very good faith effort by the company.

    And the only thing that anyone on here is suggesting is that AA get rid of its existing FAs and start over. That is hardly liquidation.
    Take a deep breath or use emojis if all YOU want to do is stimulate conversation.

  28. “My husband who is in a completely different profession said he’d be fired within one hour as a flight attendant.”

    I believe that says more about your husband than the work demands of a FA.

  29. @James N, not many people can hold a candle to what kind of person my husband is. I’m very fortunate but then again so is he.

  30. So you husband is not able to sit in a seat and play on his phone for a few hours while ignoring his responsibilities?

  31. @CHRIS, based on all the hate you spew in your comments, I can confidently say I know you’ve been fired many times over the years. You really should focus on your own career and not mine. You might be surprised how your life can be a little more joyful. You must be so exhausted.

  32. Facts don’t lie dude. I fly on A LOT of flights and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of AA flight attendants to perform even the most basic elements of their jobs is clearly evident to many of us. AA flight attendants aren’t exactly winning hearts and minds of the traveling public here. Why? Because they suck. Thats why. If I see them picketing at an airport, I’ll laugh right in their face. The best thing AA can do here is file for bankruptcy, downsize, then aggressively start terminating the lazies among your ranks. This should wipe out around 60-70%. Then hire replacements. Sure it will be a rough few months but AA will come out better on the other side…..and you’ll be asking “paper or plastic sir?”. You probably won’t last long there either though.

  33. @josh , new hires are protected by Union even on probation. they can picket and strike without being fired.

  34. The suggestion that F/A’s are “doing more work” is truly laughable. The hardest thing they do now is get off their jump seats to check seat belts. The involvement of a wacko like AOC – although nothing more than another one of her endless publicity stunts – should tell it all. If the union must get someone like her involved, they are in desperate shape. Her example is a deliberate misstatement of the cause of anyone doing that. Any F/a sleeping in a car is doing because they choose not to reside at the crew base.

  35. Very funny CHRIS. My favorite is the paper or plastic part. Let’s just say “paper and plastic” have been apart of my life since I was born. Enjoy your day.

  36. “Safety Professionals” don’t strike. You prove once again you’re a bunch of spoiled incompetent in flight waitresses.

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