United Flight Attendant Grievances Shut Down at Change.org

On Friday United sent out a memo that they’re eliminating quarterly performance bonuses of up to $300 and replacing those with a lottery which fewer than 2% of United’s employees will receive anything from. This will reduce total bonus expense by about $30 million a year.

Employees are not happy about this change. A flight attendant created a change.org petition to protest the change. It appears to have garnered over 1000 supporters in about three hours based on the time of first comment to the time there was a notice that the petition was shut down.

The laundry list of grievances includes not receiving a tax reform bonus like other airline employees; being forced to come to work sick to be eligible for lottery winnings; getting in trouble for late departures that aren’t the fault of employees (“DO”); aircraft densification that doesn’t just squeeze passengers but provides less room for flight attendants to work; having to push inflight credit card signups; and still not having fully integrated legacy Continental Airlines and United.

Dear United Management Team:

First of all, thank you for all that you do. While we appreciate your work, we have some concerns. Some of my colleagues and I are feeling some frustration recently, after the recent (and quite frankly egregious) alteration to our quarterly on-time bonus program and everything leading up to it.

First we signed a contract and they didn’t offer retro pay or a signing bonus. Shortly after signing our contract, they announced the hiring of Scott Kirby and gave him a generous signing bonus, and bragged about how wonderful it is to have him on board. We rolled our eyes a little, but kept doing our jobs with a smile.

Next we were introduced to the “quick turn”, and we got reprimanded for complying with Scott’s fantastic new speedy-boarding ideal, and boarded the plane in 22 minutes, beating the 35 minute mark. But we still had a “documented conversation”, because that wasn’t good enough. It’s not the weather’s fault. It’s the frontline worker’s fault that the plane pushed late. Nevermind the fact that we could barely board the plane when there were bar carts and cleaners and bags of garbage blocking our way. We still did our jobs. And we did our jobs quickly. And we still smiled.

After that, they implemented a “point system” that restricted our flexibility with sick calls. We still do our jobs.

(And for that matter, we probably do our jobs when we aren’t feeling great, because we can’t afford to accrue points. And now, we need to not be sick in order to be eligible for the new awards program. This is disconcerting. Flu season is in full force and we do see colleagues coming to work sick already, when they should be at home in bed.)

We watched our industry friends at Jet Blue, Southwest, American, Alaska, and Virgin America get $1000 tax cut bonuses. When we questioned why we too can’t have them we were told “United already had a tax break”. Oh yeah? So did American. Why did *they*get the bonus? Because they care about their employees? That’s why. Novel idea.

Then we saw a low profit-sharing percentage, which made us feel precisely like Clark Griswald felt when awarded the jelly of the month club membership. We made quadruple that amount 3 years ago in profit sharing. But we still keep coming to work and doing our jobs.

We are watching them strip amenities domestically, dispose of our galley and our workspace on the 757, remove lavatories, and add seats, creating more passengers and less room to move. But we still do our service with a smile and a friendly way about us. Internationally we received a memo stating that staffing would be reduced to match our competitors. We have been working off of two different contracts for well over a year and it is not only confusing, but inevitably frustrating not knowing what has and has not yet been implemented. On the legacy-CO side of the contract, we are working without duty rigs that our colleagues receive. Also, if we are not at top-out pay, on the co-side, we receive our raises a month behind our colleagues with the same seniority. (We get ours the date we came online; they get theirs the date they started training.)

We watched an optional program “bonus bucks” become a mandatory program. We now announce and pedal card membership through the aisle. And we do it with a smile. The cheapened domestic plane has never felt so cheap, as we push this credit card on unsuspecting customers, who really don’t want to be bothered.

Last, they took away our quarterly incentive bonuses, and changed it to a deplorable new system that only rewards an elite few. (No surprise, since they are good at only awarding an “elite few”- aka the upper management, and not the entire population of frontline workers.)

Above all, we are still grateful to have jobs, and we still somehow manage to squeak by with this company. We do a thankless job. We cheerfully greet our customers, without so much as a response. We assist a nervous flyer who has never stepped foot on a plane before. We hold the hand of an unaccompanied minor, deplaning to meet his estranged family. We cry with the “Make a Wish Foundation” children, eagerly flying to MCO to fulfill their dreams. We walk an elderly couple to their next gate…….yet, our paychecks are wrong lately, and we wait for months, we go through red-tape, we are handed off to multiple departments, sent on a wild goose chase, to find out where our missing money is.

For many of us, caring for customers is innate. We back up the company, we learn and we promote and we follow United’s values. We do what we can to appease the management and do our jobs adequately (and beyond). Most of us have a background in customer service. We come from caring professions. Nurses, counselors, teachers, and even clergy. We do what they want us to do. We stand behind United. It is disappointing and quite frankly, downright disgusting that our caring for the company is not reciprocal.

Thank you very much for taking our concerns seriously and for reading this letter.


United Airlines Flight Attendants

Presumably United pressured the flight attendant to halt the petition even though they support protests when it serves their bottom line.

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. Another reason to avoid United Airlines. It’s possible to have a good experience on United, just not likely.

    I do a lot of IAD to West Coast travel. United seems to consistently offer better pricing on business/first class travel. I still won’t fly United. Not worth the hassle of operational difficulties and grumpy employees.

  2. If you have this negative opinion of your employer, it’s time to start looking for a new job. I’m tired of hearing all the negativity from Flight Attendants.
    Is being a FA an easy job? Absolutely not. Does it require a lot of training? Absolutely. Is dealing with customers challenging? it can be.
    However, this role requires no college degree; no years of complex training or experience, and millions of people would love the job. The pay increases every year (both in step increases and annual pay increases, and productivity/quality of life increases).
    If you don’t like it, keep it to yourself and your friends. No need to badmouth your employer all over the Internet.

  3. Most of us readers would be interested in knowing how a company can pressure you in taking down your web site. Isn’t that why you pay union dues?

  4. I fly United monthly and see very few flight attendants serving with a smile. It’s definitely the UNFRIENDLY skies

  5. Jason says:
    March 4, 2018 at 10:13 am
    If you have this negative opinion of your employer, it’s time to start looking for a new job. I’m tired of hearing all the negativity from Flight Attendants.

    OK, then Jason. Just what kind of a job do you have? I doubt you have one based upon seniority. If that is the case, you might want to reconsider your cavalier response.

  6. I am a United FA and do not agree with most of this info.
    American got a $1,000 bonus but their profit sharing was much lower than ours.
    The space that we have on planes is still better than Delta’s planes.
    Many FAs I work with DO work with a smile. Many passengers just chose to be negative and come on board with a negative attitude. If they come on the plane with a preconceived notion that it will be an awful experience and they talk down to us many flight attendants will not react nicely. I try to turn their mood around but some of us are tired of the public not respecting flight attendants.
    So maybe passengers should not be so negative and they will get a smile from us.
    United management does have to take care of us better. I agree with that. That will ensure we are happy at work.
    But don’t blame United management for why a flight attendant or customer service agent is not smiling or isn’t going above and beyond.
    You as a passenger talk down to us, touch us instead of saying excuse me, and complain about everything while you’re on board.
    Maybe the passengers should smile as well.

  7. @ Joanna……..it’s the passengers fault. CHECK!

    UA flight attendants are the worst. Try keeping up with an Alaska FA who all seem to be nice or (I know, huge leap) an Asian carriers standards. Your airline is a disaster.

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