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. The useless trollop
    Makes a fat dollop
    But Nelson, Sara
    Couldn’t do fairer
    And now she’s in the doldrums

  2. American Airlines FA’s are not part of AFA, they have their own in-house union APFA.

  3. Sara Nelson is all fluff. Talks a good game but has no clue how to fight for her members. Enough already of this phony leader.

  4. Great move by Delta. This is inevitably coming sooner or later, why not get in front of it and make your workgroup happy and make the OA unions look bad.

  5. Delta is the best airline to be a flight attendant at for pay plus benefits. 1978-2009
    If they called me today I’d come back from my retirement‼️

  6. Delta is the best airline to be a flight attendant at for pay plus benefits. 1978-2009
    If they called me today I’d come back from my retirement.

  7. As “Norma Rae” was not filmed on Delta, the succession of management must be doing something right in the field of labor relations to continue to keep the union from imposing its interests between the FAs and management, as it’s been said how ‘people don’t organize, companies do.’

    What does it take for members of the Board responsible for labor-conflicted carriers to look beyond their comped FC seat to smell the culture. Has nothing been learned from the days of Norman, Lorenzo, Parker, etc? Good luck if the environment is set and controlled by number crunchers who have the personality of a prune with no credibility within the organization.

    The best test to compare firms in the transportation sector is to determine how in common an airline’s issues are with Amtrak, where they do not understand ‘when in a hole, stop digging’:
    -Corporate management lacks in-depth, long term railroad operational experience.
    -Board of Directors politically appointed with no relevant experience to offer as stewards of Amtrak.
    -Current CEO and Board Chair have each others back to the detriment of Amtrak’s national system and relationship with the freight railroads.

    Just like Southwest’s evolution between Dallas-Houston at the expense of Braniff International, so should Delta’s continuous success working with the FAs should be written-up in Harvard Business Review.

  8. Unions now exist to protect the benefits of their oldest members and to fight against unfit employees being terminated for cause. Couldn’t be happier to see this scam coming to an end.

  9. Do you think the Pilots at Delta would work without a union contract? The answer is No.

    I’m not a Flight Attendant but if I was, there is not a chance that I would apply at Delta, just for that reason. Yes, they might pay more, but they can fire you on the spot, there is no union job security…smh.

  10. I can’t believe all these years they weren’t getting paid while at work. What an abuse by a corporation of its workers.

  11. You’re so pressed. Just want to add Gary, United Flight Attendants have “Ground Pay” as part of their opening proposal from October 2021.

    Not called Boarding as it covers all time on ground, this would cover arrival too. (not to be confused with Holding Pay.)

    4.S. NEW
    4.S. Ground Time Pay
    Flight Attendants shall receive Ground Time Pay calculated at one-half the hourly rates set forth in Section 4.A. and 4.B., as applicable including premium pay and language pay, when applicable, on an actual minute basis for all ground time. Flight Attendants will be paid such Ground Time as add pay in addition to all other compensation.

  12. This would make sense, but both APFA and AFA have boarding pay in their contract negotiations already with major airlines. Delta simply wall the writing on the wall with a massive union effort and knew it had to stay one step ahead of the other airlines. Just as it always has. After all, it’s a rule of capitalism that money retains talent and if the other airlines started offering better, it would sap away from delta’s prestigious staff and culture. Delta flight attendants have always been profiting off of the work of the industries’ unions, they just don’t have to pay for it. And that’s why every time the vote fails, even tho by a tiny margin.

  13. I’m done reading this blog if you’re going to be posting angry boomer anti-union screeds like this.


  14. This rather biased blog reads rather more like a Facebook post from a company sycophant than from anyone who aspires to the level of aviation journalism.
    Had you done even the slightest of research, you would have learned that this “pay raise” only came after a brief experiment in Atlanta on certain aircraft with extended boarding times. Delta was not going to compensate for extending the unpaid portion of FAs duty days. They changed course after loud outrage (and here’s where AFA likes to insert itself, right or wrong). There was a stipend added to those particular flights worked with added boarding times. The bean counters apparently liked what they saw, as we now have longer boarding on all flights, with pay of course. Why is this happening? It’s not to troll the other airlines or butter up the FAs so they don’t unionize. (Though it’s debatable whether Delta would pay for that time if there wasn’t a massive effort to unionize their workforce, as well as a shift in the culture, e.g. unions at Starbucks and Amazon)
    They wanted to increase their on time record. Seems simple right? They get huge fines for departing late, so this could be saving them millions of dollars. But why is this an issue at all? If you’ve flown lately, you’d notice that flying has changed, that the typical flyer has changed, and some of them need quite a bit more help. Some don’t even know how to read their seat number. So, boarding, and deplaning, is taking much longer. Delta also cut their gate agents hours by 25 percent. Many flights are being boarded by one GA. That necessitates a longer boarding time.
    There’s a lot of union bashing on here, and everyone is free to hold their own opinions. However, Delta was able to add this benefit with minimal frontline employee input and over a short period of time. It’s a good start to being paid for every hour FAs work. (For those who make the argument that FAs are overcompensated for their “block time” to make up for unpaid ground time, they haven’t done the math on how much time FAs spend away from home, at their jobs, from report to release)
    However, as quickly and easily as this came in to being, if operations ever normalize, Delta can just snap it’s fingers again and make this “pay raise” go away. No contract means no negotiation means no stability.

  15. Spotted the anti-union columnist. Delta would have never done this if they weren’t certain AFA was about to have a successful union drive. 20 minutes of pay per leg is way cheaper than letting another workgroup unionize.

  16. Delta paying flight attendants during boarding will cost the company significantly less money than if their flight attendants successfully unionize their workforce. This is just a shiny object to distract from the larger and better goal of obtaining union representation. Since no other airline offers pay during boarding it appears as if they’re getting something that’s above and beyond what a union would ever get them, but believe me, Delta has done the math, and what the company is offering in this situation works out better for the company that having a union.

  17. Will flight attendants be receiving a flat 40 minutes at 50% of their pay per flight or will they be paid from when boarding begins until the aircraft departs? They start boarding 40 minutes prior to departure then the have an hour long mx delay at departure time are they going to get paid for 1:40 or just :40?

  18. Sarah Nelson never tells the truth/gives straight talk. She has acted like FA will earn their current hourly pay for the boarding time.

    I’ve pointed out that’s not what will happen to many FA. (close friends) They all thought I was crazy, bought the “we don’t get paid anything” spiel. Now they understand exactly what happens and that they were getting paid. Just not in obvious manner.

    Finally they’re seeing Mrs. NELSON only cares about the union dues cause she gets to use for expenses/ salary.

  19. Unions r the biggest scam ever these days. U pay these dues in hopes that someone else will help you achieve a better outcome with the very employer you’re working for. I would
    Never join any union as u r effectively given up your own individuality and entrepreneurship while handcuffing your employer. Don’t be fooled by unions they don’t do anything better for you that you wouldn’t be able to go in and do yourself except to steal your money.

  20. Most unions are a joke for most people. I’ll concede they can occasionally provide value in certain limited instances, but for the most part they are useless to good workers, and help make sure the bad ones stick around. The people who benefit the most from unionization is the union itself. Skimming off other people’s paychecks in return for usually nothing.

  21. The truth of the matter is, Delta’s management team is listening to their people. Most airlines including UA have adjusted their international and domestic flight attendant staff on certain flights. In addition, boarding times on wide body aircraft is 50min before departure and 40min on narrow body aircraft. Furthermore, the issue for me is not “the early boarding” it is number of issues that we address or handle prior to depature. I wish that the union and the company had a better working relationship for the good all employees.

  22. I’m a Delta flight attendant and this is great news for us! Delta has always taken care of us without a union and I’m thankful.

  23. This is anti union garbage masked as journalism. Gary Leff, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Perhaps instead of Union bashing you should fully research the situation before writing. Delta flight attendants enjoy what they have because of what the unionized carriers have fought hard to negotiate. EVERY time there is an organizing drive at Delta, they are suddenly given raises and extras to try to influence the vote. Every. Single. Time. AFA has had boarding pay (ground pay) on their radar for some time and it’s part of our current negotiations. You seem to incorrectly think AFA has failed it’s members. AFA isn’t perfect (neither are you, by the way) but it and Sara Nelson do a great job negotiating for and protecting our workers. I suggest you stick to topics you know instead of writing a trash piece like this.

  24. You think AFA is bad have any of you guys heard of TWU? The worst of the worst

  25. It’s unfortunate that these comments are from people who have no clue about working for airline. I flew for 35 years and it without a union the job would have impossible. In addition the unions hands are tied due to the railway labor act that flight crews work under. So negotiations and contracts are not easily changed. The author here needs to tell the Whole story

  26. The union wants our millions of $$$ . . I have had a paycheck every two weeks for over 40 years ! That is job security !

  27. “Flight attendants don’t like early boarding when the additional time doesn’t add to their pay.”

    No Gary as usual you’re clueless. We don’t like boarding early because a lot of the times we have 15hr days with no time to eat , so that extra 5minutes is when we have to shove food down before boarding begins !

  28. @ M.E.

    yes we do , if the plane has been boarded and we sit with them longer than an hour past departure , ground pay and holding pay start but its very minimal.

  29. Why is this being published in a frequent traveler publication?

    It is full of assumptions ( not based on fact or knowledge of the industry). Like the previous post”!written like a Facebook post)

    Please keep your comments to thinks you are truly familiar with. You are on the PAX side of this. I have over 180 credit hours towards my Aviation Degree, 440 hours of flight time, I’ve worked nearly every position at the airlines, yet I would never make such a disparaging comment and Union bash without all the facts. It’s simply not that “ Simple”.

    AA started negotiations on this issue recently, so it’s nothing new. I wish the airlines would take more “ common” fliers on their boards. I was Chairman’s Preffered on USAirways for many years, combined with my aviation experience I’d be perfect for an airline board. But as usual, is the buddy system for airlines, and other major corporations.

    Anyhow, please don’t comment on which you don’t have the full facts, research, and experience to comment on. Keep it to what you know, Sears, miles and inflight service. I hope this stings and puts you back, in your seat.

  30. Ah, another totally unbiased anti-union piece from this blog. Should have added a disclaimer that Delta Airlines sponsored this post.

  31. Union scum being union scum.
    Union apologist trash on the blog defending the scum.
    If you need a union in the 21st century, you’re clearly a worthless employee.

  32. Did someone in Delta Labor Relations write this themselves and send it to you to post? Ed Bastien couldn’t have said it better himself, you hit every one of his anti-union points. Hopefully it earned you a nice Delta One seat to Europe or at least a back rub or something

  33. Tim J – lots of people have 15 hour days. You don’t do it for five days a week. Stop whining, sky monkey. You’re just lazy.

  34. This article is garbage.
    The only reason Delta is doing this it’s because their Fas arw trying to unionize. If they truly wanted to pay for boarding why make it half the pay. Should they give half the effort? Should they not offer predepature beverage? Should they not help you with your bags?
    I blame the government over the years for allowing this illegal act to happen. Working without getting paid.
    Clearly shows how the different departments in thw government are not doing their job and protecting workers and citizens against corporations

  35. While there is a lot of bias in this article, because Delta did this as a ploy to keep their flight attendants from unionizing, there’s shouldn’t be any work without pay, period. And the nerve to try and gaslight Delta regardless.
    You realize we can see right through this act of trying to save your own behind. Do not act like y’all’s union doesn’t throw United’s flight attendants to the curb, time and time again. Especially during the pandemic, when y’all backed their mandate. You have hundreds of flight attendants out on medical leave from side effects and complications from the vaccine, and nothing is being done to support them.
    For a company that really loves being in the news as “the first to do this”, y’all should have been on top of that. No excuse.

  36. Unions suck!

    I cannot understand why anyone would vote for a union… Right off the bat, they’ll be paying union dues…. And often times years will pass before their Union will even lift a finger to benefit them….

    Additionally, it is in the Union’s best interest to create a culture of “Us” against “Them” whereas without a union, the employer amd employee have many common grounds, common goals, success is shared and the overall relationship tends to be more of a mutually beneficial relationship!

    In comes the Union, literally acting exactly as a third wheel, further hindering movement and forward progress!

  37. @ FRED

    I’m also a Registered Nurse in the E.D. So calling me a sky monkey points out what a total loser you are ! Yes people work 15hr days but they also get a lunch break by law … Airlines don’t have too. Now climb back down to your moms basement and STFU !

  38. It’s no coincidence that Delta made the offer when threatened by their employees unionizing. You’d have to be very naive to believe they did it out of the goodness of their heart. Author clearly drinks the corpo Kool aid.

  39. And here’s Gary with the Delta reach around – must be on the widget patrol.

  40. The people commenting here that I’m some sort of Delta fanboy are hilarious. Read the blog!

    And of course Delta doesn’t want a union. But guess what? This just shows Delta employees benefit from organizing drives that fail. They get more pay (which Delta can afford because they don’t have the tax of dealing with a union) and don’t have to pay dues either.

  41. At United, we still don’t have piggybacking implemented. AFA and United haven’t done a single thing about it and this single factor speaks volumes that they don’t care about the membership and it’s all about politics and money.

    Excuses such as technical IT issues are a joke. It doesn’t take 5 years to get this programming done so next excuse please.

    We know it has to do with money and not wanting to pay for 2 possible duty rig periods within one.

    AFA, get this done. You’re losing creditability daily with this.

  42. As retired Delta In Flight Service Management (Director level) 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 yelling “ ORGANIZING INTERFERENCE!”. They can say whatever they want to stuff their pockets with dues. In turn, the company is muzzled. I flew for a long time before I left the line. I have seen their manipulation from both sides and I didn’t like it either way. Stay strong, DAL F/A’s.

  43. Ground pay as described by Anon is nothing more than duty rigs..Delta’s had duty rigs for decades. One minute of flight pay for every two minutes on duty, daily flight hour guarantee, and one for four for every minute gone from home including eating, sleeping, and shopping. It isn’t as if anyone is working for free. .

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