Time For Flight Attendant Mega-Union

Time For Flight Attendant Mega-Union

In the past several years, airline consolidation has created powerful mega-carriers that have not only standardized airline products and fares — they’ve also shared their best practices for dealing with labor. Airline employees have taken note and realize how this “consolidation” strategy can work for them as well.

Flight Attendants Regroup and Recharge

A movement is growing among flight attendants throughout the industry to join forces in order to strengthen their pushback against airline management’s tactics which thoroughly rely on fragmentation and division within the profession.

Management’s approach has been focused on weakening labor at every turn. Standard methods range from schemes to intimidate employees who are attempting to organize to lobbying for right-to-work legislation (which encourages employees to stop paying union dues while still receiving benefits) and implementing carefully calculated plans to compromise union leadership officials.

Here’s a bite-sized look at the situation at each carrier:


Recently revealed back-dealing between American Airlines management and APFA, the union representing the American’s flight attendants, serves as a recent example of how a small, isolated union can succumb to well crafted union-busting techniques and campaigns. In this case, flight attendants have been left to work under an agreement forced onto them during bankruptcy though the company now enjoys record breaking profits.

Additionally, AA flight attendants are currently dealing with toxic uniforms, a faulty bidding system, division between pre-merger AA and US crewmembers and a plethora of other issues that many feel the APFA has proven ineffective at dealing with.

A recall effort of APFA leadership has begun as well as a very strong push to merge their union with the much larger Association of Flight Attendants. AFA was responsible for a clause in American’s flight attendant agreement (AFA had represented US Airways flight attendants prior to the merger with American) which would require adjustments in pay should the market-aggregate change.

Recently, AFA negotiated significant increases at United which raised the market-aggregate. The issue recently went to arbitration and the ruling should be announced soon.


A campaign by flight attendants to organize at Delta has been met by an aggressive and highly coordinated anti-union operation which seamlessly carries messaging from intra-company communications through to public media in order to paint Delta as the airline that doesn’t need unions — at least for flight attendants.

Delta flight attendants in favor of representation complain of not having a voice when it comes to their pay and work-rules. They also lack recourse when faced with discipline, termination and improper treatment.


Under the leadership of Jeffrey Smisek, United’s team used bizarre delay tactics to stall negotiations with their flight attendants for years. Following the resignation of Smisek, during a corruption scandal, the airline’s new CEO, Oscar Munoz, instructed company negotiators to proceed in good faith and an agreement was finally reached.


Over 7,500 flight attendants at Southwest have joined a recall effort of the TWU Local 556 president as well as 12 additional leaders. Many feel the union became far too cozy with management and teamed up to push employees to approve an inferior agreement. The recall has since morphed into a class action lawsuit following the union’s refusal to verify the signatures of the recall petition.

And let’s not forget those flying for foreign carriers…

Norwegian Air and Cathay Pacific

US-based flight attendants at carriers Norwegian (which could easily replace their US flight attendants if allowed to proceed with flag-of-convenience scheme) and Cathay Pacific Airways (which decided to stop paying their flight attendants Social Security and Medicare) have chosen to play it safe and join with the largest group of unionized flight attendants in North America and form their own chapters at AFA.

Personal statement: I believe it’s time for flight attendants at every airline to join together and get to work gaining back all they’ve lost in the last decades. It’s that simple.



Gailen David is co-host of the nationally syndicated travel talk show, "The Jet Set" with over 1.8M weekly viewers in over 200 television markets in 12 countries. A former flight attendant, he leads a global discussion about "Jetiquette", the rules or code of civilized travel. Gailen is a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN and USA Today on topics related to the airline travel experience and of course, Jetiquette. Visit Gailen's website

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