United Flight Attendants Union Gaslights Delta’s Cabin Crew Pay Increase

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.

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. As retired Delta In Flight Service Management, I saw all the tricks. The union reps would lie through their teeth trying to get the votes they needed. If Flight Attendants sought clarity on what they were being told and we corrected the record, the union went screaming to the Labor Relations Board accusing Delta of “ORGANIZING INTERFERENCE!”. They can make outlandish claims to stuff their pockets with more dues. In turn, the company is muzzled. I flew for a long time before I left the line. I have witnessed their manipulation from both sides of the desk and I didn’t like it from either side.. Stay strong, DAL F/A’s.

  2. It takes pure ignorance or malevolence to claim an apparent win for some employees at one employer is a loss for employees of a different employer. Do better, Gary leff.

  3. This is a real low for you Gary. Wonder how much butter Delta put on your bread to write their propaganda.

  4. Seems like a bunch of AFA members showed up to the comments section. Take it easy on them…..they’re still in grieving over losing their mask police powers…..and worse will have to now start providing something that loosely resembles onboard service again. I’m glad they’ll get to see their counterparts at DL get this.

  5. Was union and Continental Airlines and now at Delta. We don’t need AFA

  6. Ahhh, Anti-union propaganda at it’s best.

    Delta gives the FA’s a win, and then says “look, we’re all family here, and we care for you, see……You don’t need a union. Unions are bad.”

    “Unions cut jobs, unions don’t hire more qualified people, unions don’t negotiate for better pay…” beautiful article.

    Unions don’t hire people, that’s a corporate and management failure to do so.

    Unions are who set the training standards and requirements for their industry. If it was up to corporations, they would follow RyanAir’s model and just have their FA’s on standby lists, waiting to be called in; with no standard scheduling.

    Union dues go to pay lawyers to keep people’s jobs and to negotiate better and more fair contracts. They pay for training through all levels of union membership. They pay for day to day standard fees that everyone pays for to keep organizations rolling and operating smoothly.

    This is a win, and is great for FA’s throughout the entire industry, and should be the wedge that breaks the dam loose.

    Corporations make the rules, unions keep the corporation honest and the relationships fair.

  7. Happy for the Delta F/A’s and glad they will be able to pick up a few extra bucks. Clever of Delta management to lead the unions in offering the benefit, and kinda funny to see [other airlines’] union leadership try to throw shade at Delta. Politics is a funny animal.

  8. Serious question FA’S: How much are union dues? Is it a big bite out of your check?

  9. This is more of indictment of the railway labor act than unions. This act prevents real bargaining as the airlines and railways know if there is a strike a judge will order the employees back to work in less than a day. Then parties are usually bound by binding arbitration, which one side prevails. (Not a compromise agreement). What happens at railroads and airlines isn’t reflective of anything remotely close to a typical union environment.

  10. I’m a retired Purser/fa from DL/NWA.
    I won’t get into unions but I find the credentials of this author interesting.
    He apparently works for a university. Doesn’t say which one. Huh.
    His “expertise” is in airline mileage programs and credit card programs. Huh.
    What would compel him to write this article? Huh.
    Just saying. Huh.

  11. That’s not Gaslighting. Gaslighting is trying to make someone believe that they’re crazy. From the film, Gaslight.

  12. And yet, the simple basic idea of not being paid for all of the time your at work just doesn’t make sense. This wouldn’t fly in 99.9% of non-salaried jobs. That fact that they’re still only paying them part time for boarding is a joke. Pay them full time for the entire time they are at work and adjust wages accordingly. Sounds like some pretty serious gaslighting trying to convince someone that it’s ok, not to be paid for the entire time they are at work.

  13. I’ve had more interaction, say and help from management here at delta than I ever did with sw with a union and paying for it, the union failed me the only time I ever needed them. Delta is doing right with without union compared to other airlines

  14. Ive been a flight attendant for 33 years (16 at NWA) it was a hard pill to swallow after the merger to see our union go away. I’ve seen both sides. There are good things a union can do to protect their members when it comes to work rules. Especially when things go wonky during weather or fa shortages. During the pandemic Delta offered leaves. Most of the leaves were senior ppl. This allowed the junior people who couldn’t afford to take it, to keep working. If we were unionized the junior people would have been laid off causing Delta to pay the higher wages. To gaslight and say they are raising the boarding time…. So what? We will be compensated. Perhaps it’s not our full hourly but it’s a start. The most stressful part of a flight is the boarding. Cramming everyone on in 30 min, on a full flight Is Insanely stressful. Not just for us but for the passengers and gate agents. That extra 10 min is welcomed….. now that we will be compensated. Smart move on Delta’s part. If the employee is happy the customer will be happy.

  15. The CEO’s of the Airlines want money for upgrades but won’t pay the Flight Attendents the money they are deserved. They are on the job helping passengers board and get them settled, so why should they not be paid for their time. Kinda funny money the CEO’s ask for goes into someone else’s pocket .

  16. I left TWA during the flight attendant strike in 1986 because I could not afford to work for half my pay and benefits. It was tough but 85% of us supported the strike thru the entire 10 weeks. The mother of a friend of my daughter was hired as a permanent replacement. It took her 15 years to reach the pay and benefits I left. I am old enough to remember good middle class jobs for a larger percent of our population. People could afford to live where we worked. greed and fear has destroyed this country far more than many of things people rant about. We didn’t win our strike , but no one considers Carl Icahn’s take over to have been a success. ( After that I got to watch greedy managers destroy Digital Equipment Corp ( try googling it ,) and AT&T / Lucent Technologies.)

  17. No WAY AFA! I’m a current flight attendant at DL! I’ve talked to many of my friends at United and at American and before raises and boarding pay we’re announced they all have said “ If you can avoid a union do it.” Our air line isn’t perfect as any large corporation isn’t however, they try to do their best and that’s all we can ask. Listening to some of the lies spread from union campaigns such as you’ll have a better schedule, the union can stop reroutes, the union will guarantee better trips, the union at AFA will guarantee higher wages when they can’t even do that for its current employees they are sworn to protect. I am genuinely happy while not having to suffer with a horrible work life balance due to the system we have in place. Many of my friends complain they have to suffer due to horrible work life balance with their reserve schedules but we don’t have that here. Furthermore, a union would destroy that and I truly hope and believe we won’t get one! Delta listens time after time on what they can do to make us a better work force!

  18. Delta’s spin doctors are not “recognizing the hard work of its flight attendants” any more than any other American carrier, who also haven’t paid flight crews performing pre-departure duties while boarding for YEARS under the Railway Labor Act. This is the result of losing a lawsuit brought by employees in CA for failing to pay minimum wages while performing work “off the clock” in violation of state labor law. ( . ).

    And for the all “professionals” running the unions (legal and otherwise) NONE of them exercised any savvy by filing this action in any court, anywhere.

  19. Wow! Just… wow! I’m blown away at your ignorance in this post… maybe I should say bias… I guess Delta has been greasing your gears for a while now though. How many miles did you get for this union busting article? Delta crew… this is the perfect example of just how hard mgmt will work to get you to vote no for a union. Protect yourselves against this type of dictatorship! Protect your jobs! Vote YES!!!!

  20. Wow this is some of the most blatant anti-union propaganda I have seen in years. I hope Delta cashed you a big enough check to soothe your shriveled up conscious. Let’s be clear, the only reason Delta’s FAs have all that they do is because of the work of the unions at the other airlines. They have to maintain a higher level in order to fend off unionization. If there weren’t unions in the industry you can bet your butt that airlines would be paying the absolute lowest that they could for FAs and that’s not even going into all of the safety regulations that unions have helped push into place that Delta FAs benefit from. You like that minimum rest time? Better thank unions.

    I know where I’m not going for airline news anymore.

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