Union Will Help American Airlines Track Down And Fire Flight Attendants Who Sell Their Job Duties

The American Airlines flight attendants union has been in negotiations with the company since before the pandemic. They’ve requested a federal mediator for negotiations even though they continue reporting to their membership details of the progress they’re making.

The union reported at the end of last week that they’ve come to an agreement over how to handle flight attendants who ‘sell their seniority’ (a group known as ‘the cartel’) offering up their trips to more junior crew in exchange for cash ($200 on average) or other favors.

  • American wanted sole discretion in determining who was engaging in this activity
  • The union agreed to help put a stop to it as long as they got shared say in the standards that were used.

The company modified and we agreed to new language in Section 10.V to address cartel issues. The company proposal gave them sole discretion to choose the objective metrics used to determine if a Flight Attendant was using the scheduling systems to circumvent seniority. The agreed-upon language provides that APFA and the Company will mutually agree upon a process to address seniority abuse through an objective metric. Offenders may find themeslves restricted from TTS/UBL/ETB.

In fact it’s actually pretty obvious when this is happening when ultra junior cabin crew get to regularly pick up “Tel Aviv, Delhi, London Heathrow” and South America.

But the union is effectively throwing these members under the bus.

  • The union isn’t taking the traditional position that their members own their schedules and can do what they want with them.

  • They’re offering to work with the company to ferret out their own members and they aren’t even claiming to be getting anything in exchange.

The contract American Airlines flight attendants are working under is unusual. As part of an agreement that got union leadership at the time on board with US Airways taking over the combined carrier out of bankruptcy, there was a deal for a joint flight attendant agreement (Conditional Labor Agreement) that was imposed without legacy American Airlines flight attendants ever voting for it. Many crew thought they were sold down the river by a union head who was cousins with the treasurer of US Airways.

There were a number of unusual things in the deal. As I understand it, union reps got big raises – paid for 110 hours of trip-removal each month for their union work, nearly a 40% bump, and they can still pick up extra flying – which they can drop and give to friends through trip trades. So it’s a bit ironic for the union leadership to agree to crackdown on backroom dealing and trip trades.

I don’t actually expect a contract before the fall, because current union leadership needs to get re-elected first. If they agree to a contract that’s for less than what members (unrealistically) expect, they’ll get voted out of office. And the company isn’t going to give them something generous enough to run on. Instead they need to get voted back into office before they’re in a position to negotiate pay increases and then tell their members it’s the best they could do.

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. Unions are supposed to protect employees not become ‘fat cats’ at their member’s expense

  2. As usual Gary has no idea what he’s talking about. Let me spell it out for you so you can see what the benefit of cracking down on this is:

    A 38- year flight attendant wants to fly three trips to Rome every month. But she doesn’t feel like learning a new schedule building software program.

    A 3-year flight attendant offers to help her – for a favor. He signs in with her credentials (which is and always has been a fireable security breach) and places six trips to Rome on her schedule. When the trip trading period begins, he transfers three of the Rome trips onto his own schedule, thus jumping ahead of people with, say, 35 years. A handful of people right above them are stealing their seniority and giving it to someone who just got there. Just because she’s too lazy to spend a couple hours learning some software.

  3. I, as a 32 year flight attendant am a direct VICTIM of this Cartel activity. Not only do flight attendants senior to me sell trips they also charge junior flight attendant to use their seniority to DROP undesirable trip to the company for money. I have worked hard and LONG to have the seniority to fly trips that are being flown by others that were not even BORN the I started to fly. I am grateful that our UNION is finally fighting for ALL of us to maintain the integrity of the system.

  4. Since Jill says ‘Gary has no idea what he’s talking about.’ and mentions Rome let me spell it out for YOU (he’s 100% right, and is kind to merely allude to “or other favors”). They call the other favors ‘fellatio for FCO’.

  5. Tom, so one year after the COLA increase would be the end of the contract in early 2000. Three years from then would be early 2023. Thank you for confirming that part of my comments.

  6. I use American Airlines for long time , but I stopped couple years , when my bags where open in Miami international and stole my item’s,for 500.dollars value, and Rosa Perez offer me 150 dollars in credit , to use in future flight, what kind a joke it’s that?I don’t trust any more in aa

  7. Sad, but that’s corporate America today. I had my WalMart order stolen from my front porch a couple of Sundays ago. They said my order was signed for. It was indeed signed for, but not by me. Their delivery person didn’t even bother to verify the recipient on the order. I called their call center (in India no less) who told me they couldn’t refund me and that I had to take it up with my credit card issuer. After firing off a mean Tweet to WalMart, I finally got results. It’s sad corporate America is taking our money with them accepting little or no accountability for their mishaps.

  8. I had to laugh at this statement: As far as I know(please correct me if I”m wrong) the union has a duty of fair representation. Setting a union member up for discipline from management just won’t do for that.

    Unions have sided with management many times going all the way back to how Stewardesses won labor rights for all women. Read Great Stewardess Rebellion. When Tammy Jo Shultz was fired from Southwest the union DID NOT come to her resuce. Read Nerves of Steel. And when Karlene Petit was attacked by Delta and Christine Janning by Southwest. Well, unions took management’s side. Happens all the time. Duty of fair representation is a fiction.

  9. Kathryn Creedy, you are right. When it comes to a worker vs management conflict, the union will side with management if it is in their best interest. Being in a union for several decades, I saw this first hand. When filing any grievance, you first had to determine what the union’s side of the issue was. Then you had to decide whether to continue. Lawyers are better. With any good one, they take your side if you pay them.

  10. This has been going on for years .. we also call it the Cartel.. I am not lazy so I learned the software .. someone always learns how to get what they want ..

  11. Why aren’t flight attendants grieving the changes, force the company to enforce the rules of seniority. Truth be told,, when seniority is brazenly circumvented it’s a sign of a weak union, the company has no reason to intervene.

  12. A Union is as good as it’s members want it to be, and as poor as they allow it to be.

  13. It’s 115hrs they get paid in the Union. Yes they voted a raise for themselves far above the members they represent. Please correct facts.
    And the Union has to represent ALL MEMBERS EQUALLY !! By going for the cartels at last…
    those that actually work, are honest and have integrity will be represented. But not holding my breath. It’s been promised for years. Do it now!! ALREADY! You’re losing good people because of the scum that don’t want to work or only work easy premium flights.

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