Delta’s decision to pay flight attendants for the time boarding aircraft sent shockwaves through the industry. Traditionally flight attendant union-bargained contracts pay flight attendants a higher wage for the flight itself, and don’t calculate time spent boarding. Thus, many flight attendants feel they ‘don’t get paid’ for that time.
I’ve heard from cabin crew at several airlines envious of their counterparts at Delta, who are seeing this new pay on top of raises that started right before the pandemic, on top of special profit sharing bonuses announced earlier this year, and on top of raises that go into effect May 1.
And flight attendants unions at other airlines are running scared. After all they couldn’t get this for their own members while non-union Delta flight attendants did. It also makes the case a lot harder for Sara Nelson’s AFA-CWA to win a unionization drive at Delta.
Here’s what Ms. Nelson’s AFA at United is saying, trying to spin what’s happening at Delta. They begin by acknowledging… Delta’s flight attendants are getting a better deal than what they’ve been able to accomplish in 20 years!
Earlier this week, Delta management announced they would begin paying their Flight Attendants boarding pay at half the rate of flight time pay. This is a good thing, and, in our view, all Flight Attendants should receive boarding pay. After all, this has been a priority for Flight Attendants for at least the last twenty years.
However, since 9/11 we’ve been consumed with battling management at the bargaining table to keep that which we’ve previously accomplished during negotiations.
Then they move on to suggest Delta flight attendants are really being tricked here.
So, one asks, “What the rest of the story?” Shrouded by this announcement is the fact that Delta management has increased passenger boarding time from 35 to 40 minutes and this announcement is their attempt to tamper back the angry reaction it deserves from Flight Attendants.
Delta is moving from 35 to 40 minute boarding for domestic mainline flights. They are going to be paying for boarding time on all flights, including domestic widebodies and international flights.
Flight attendants don’t like early boarding when the additional time doesn’t add to their pay. The beef isn’t with early boarding as such, it’s with having to work more time without an increase in pay. Delta is paying for the time. Now the earlier Delta boards, the more Delta flight attendants make. Sure, AFA, that ought to “deserve” an “angry reaction.”
Then they say that this is just being done to beat a unionization drive. Here AFA is just mad that they’re likely to… succeed. Non-union Delta can earn more money and pay crew more. And Delta is choosing a way that matters a great deal to flight attendants to show it.
The union does correctly point out that “As Delta continues to add additional services, they have failed to restore staffing to pre-pandemic levels on the aircraft.” However other airlines, like American Airlines (whose flight attendants union AFA says they’re working with to raise industry wages) hasn’t done so either. AFA’s own United cut staffing levels on international long haul even before the pandemic but they don’t remind members of that.
A lot of flight attendants at competitor airlines are now wondering, what are those dues for anyway? It might at least start with paying for a union that’s honest with members and presents them with more than just stylized facts.