Red Alert: American Airlines Flight Attendants Confront CEO in WAR Shirts

After the American Airlines earnings call on Thursday, senior executives held an all-employee meeting to share the carrier’s results and to take questions. Things got heated, with employee questions focused on union contracts for flight attendants and for reservations agents. Home-based customer service agents report being told that they will not see any raises and that outsourcing is good for them (less mandatory overtime).

Flight attendants union President Julie Hedrick stood along with a group of cabin crew to ask a question – decked out in red union shirts meant to signify “We Are Ready” (acronym: WAR). She said that “flight attendants have not had a raise in 5 years… [they] risked their lives on the front line through Covid.” And she made the point that they lobbied to help deliver around $10 billion in government subsidies to American Airlines “so this airline could survive.”

Previously unreported, American “just had 3 of our flight attendants assaulted on Tuesday of this week.” (She asked CEO Robert Isom if he was aware of this, but he did not answer this part of her question and she did not provide further details of the incidents.)

Hedrick continued,

We are picketing, we are wearing our red shirts and we are receiving pushback from this company in the form of a BOLO, be on the lookout for scary flight attendants in red shirts…Are you hearing us?

Isom said that “You are going to receive compensation and benefits that are best in the industry. You may say it’s not enough to match Delta or to match whoever it is. I understand. That’s why we negotiate.” He says that in the past decade they haven’t asked for anything back. However, he said, “I won’t sugar coat anything” and suggest that negotiations will simply be resolved quickly.

For Flight Attendant Appreciate Day, American gave all of its flight attendants two shrink-wrapped cookies “everyone likes to feel appreciated.” This was better, I suppose, than when they fed them all chili before sending them off to fly.

The flight attendants union is demanded a 50% wage increase under threat of strike, though it occurs to me that union President Hedrick doesn’t remember the lesson of Star Trek that red shirts are extraneous to their employer.

American Airlines has offered Delta-level wages including boarding pay along with increased profit sharing, increased training pay, and increased retirement contributions.

Flight attendants aren’t more productive than Delta’s and American is financially weaker than Delta. The value of the age can’t exceed the value of marginal product.

Given Isom’s stated pattern bargaining model, flight attendants are best off waiting to see what United’s flight attendants get in negotiations. They are already borrowing the lead negotiator from AFA-CWA which represents cabin crew at United.

The American Airlines flight attendants union lacks the financial resources to sustain a strike. They can’t pay their members enough to sustain them without pay from their job.

That’s why, even if released to ‘self help’ by the National Mediation Board, the union isn’t actually planning a full strike despite public rhetoric. They are planning to surprise the airline by not showing up to work specific flights, which may change day to day. It’s a tactic that rival union AFA-CWA calls CHAOS (‘Create Havoc Around Our System’). This allows most flight attendants to collect pay for most days of work, so that they do not have to endure financial strain that they’re less able to manage than the company is.

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. Vanna White helped keep the money rolling with a much larger male audience than would have otherwise been the case for the Wheel of Fortune.

    While I’m not always thrilled by the attitude of cabin crew members, they are generally useful to provide food and drink to customers and to inform passengers and assist with the safety requirements.

  2. Goodness, I once trained our dog to fetch drinks from a cooler using cookie treats. But surely American wouldn’t do that…

  3. AA needs to lockout this union and their terrible, entitled, lazy, rude members. Hire enthusiastic workers that are happy and excited to show up for work every day, at probably half the cost. Short term pain, but long term gain. What do you have to lose? You’ve already been bleeding money for years. Unions are nothing but legal extortionists, they add nothing to society, in fact they increase costs, lower productivity, and benefit only their members at the expense of everyone else.

  4. I don’t really understand what people think to gain by belittling working people for the work they do. Does it make anyone feel better to belittle others like this? If so, those are the little people who feel better about belittling others for the work they do.

    It’s also very natural in a capitalistic society to want to maximize earnings. Or do you want airlines’ unionized workers to be utopian communists who think money doesn’t matter?

  5. @Mantis
    I’ve been involved in two lockouts in my career. One with the paper, workers union, and the other one with the machinist union at an aircraft facility. In the end, the company won massive concessions that really changed their operations. Plus an upside was after about seven months you could buy boats and RVs really cheaply when the strike fines weren’t nearly as much as they were making.

  6. @GUWonder
    I think the problem lies in the fact so many people have been on the receiving end of AAs, flight attendants, and gate staff belittling passengers.

  7. @GUWonder

    This site would be so much better if you took your little passive aggressive uninformed opinions elsewhere.

  8. The Flight Attendants union should get help from John Samulsen (TWU President).He attended a meeting a few years back and told Robert Isom to prepare for a nasty strike headed by “NY Subway Guys”. Within a few weeks the union got their contract.

  9. @John C

    Yeah… not what happened. It was nearly a year before that union got their deal and Samuelson’s remarks were used in federal court by AA to fine the union. Samuelson didn’t understand the Railway Labor Act.

  10. As is typical, passengers pay the price. The average union member flight attendant doesn’t distinguish between angst w/ the CBA process and customer service.

    In AA’s defense, DL is the only standard they can match and the company says they will do that. Neither UA or WN have settled w/ their FAs but don’t seem to have the hostility that AA and its FA union has

  11. H20Man,

    I certainly understand that, as I too have had more than my share of encounters with AA employees who really shouldn’t be working customer-facing roles. But I can’t say I’ve seen that as being generally representative of and a cause of the airline employees’ unionization. I also don’t see the annoying employees as being representative of most of their colleagues.That said, there was a time when I thought DL FAs were better than the other US legacy majors.

  12. Literally throwing “crumbs” in some sort of grammar school attempt to appease this bunch tells it all about how clueless AA Senior Management is. On the flip side, the productivity, i.e. meaningful service provided by the F/A’s, keeps getting less and less. This allows them to retreat to their jump seats or congregate the gallies complaining to each about how tough their jobs are while annoying the customers whom they neglect. Bottom line, a match made in heaven.

  13. Wow 2 cookies what amazing generosity!
    it makes me feel like I’m flying one of their premium cabins
    Only thing missing from that luxury experience is the high end Crystal Geiser water that consumer reports found arsenic in

  14. These FA’s get ZERO sympathy from me. They often are rude, lazy, entitled, don’t check on You for HOURS, play candy crush and gossip for hours. Sure, You help that one lady with her carryon and dealt with some jerks over covid. But most of Y’all “checked out” of Your jobs YEARS AGO. I fly in Paid FC often and have a 1/10 pre departure beverage, have not been thanked for my business once this year (except from the Pilots over the speaker), and often am left with trash and empty cups for long periods. “Don’t press the call button!” ” You can’t use the restroom right now” and the list goes on. Why don’t Y’all Police the hoard of passengers that come up to use the FC lavatory immediately after takeoff and send them BACK to where there are 2 to 3 open restrooms that won’t block service for the whole plane? Ridiculous, and I hope most of Y’all get locked out and replaced.

  15. @Benjamin G…I need to make a note to never fly on the same plane as you. I fly more than most people on here with these stupid comments. You and all these others must have terrible lives with all the crappy flights you get. Once in awhile I run into a rude travel industry employee but most of the time they are just fine. Majority of rude people work in healthcare, sales, engineering, law, education, retail and of course insurance industry takes the cake.

  16. AA Gate agents are horrible, especially in ORD and MIA. I hope they all quit and are replaced by humans.

  17. @Flyer1- You are absolutely correct. I’m sure a vast number of the complainers here are guilty themselves or their company is. I wish they would identify the companies they work for or the company they own so we all could share our experiences with their employees.

  18. Joseph,

    With regard to these words:

    “Nothing says I’m commodity labor quite like ganging up and confronting the CEO.”

    I’ve seen groups of well paid lawyers and groups of well-paid investment bankers gang up to confront their respective higher-ups and then leave to form their own firms or go off collectively to join another. I guess we can call the $600k+ per year professional services income earners “commodity labor” too.

    All labor should be deemed replaceable — including the labor of “the boss” at the top.

  19. Screw the company. Go union. Isom and management are making huge sums. For those that think FA’s are only good for serving you drinks, just wait until they save your butt in an emergency.

Comments are closed.