A heated dispute has broken out between the American Airlines and the union which represents the carrier’s 26,000 flight attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) over the airline’s preferential bidding system. In a memo sent by Nena Martin, the union’s interim national president tells her members that American has filed a grievance against APFA.
The trouble started over a dispute about changes AA management plan to make to the Preferential Bidding System – essentially, the PBS allows flight attendants to bid for and swap trips and days off to better suit their lifestyle’s. Flight attendants can make new bids each month and at the moment they find out if they’ve been successful just 48 hours after the bidding period has closed.
But American now plans to “unilaterally” change that cut off period from 48 to 120 hours. A move that APFA claims would “cause significant hardship and erosion of quality of work life for Flight Attendants”. That’s because they won’t be allowed to pick up, drop, or trade any trips that touch the last 6 days of the bid period.
American first muted the idea in November and APFA immediately smelt a rat. They decided AA’s plan breached the Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement and filed a Presidential Grievance against the airline – APFA said changes could only be made with their agreement.
Unfortunately for flight attendants, American disagreed and we’ve now learned the airline’s management has filed its own grievance against the union. They are arguing the 48-hour rule was never set in stone and have allegedly claimed it was merely a “placeholder” in the agreement.
What’s more, AA is claiming the union has stepped on the toes of an independent scheduling committee and in fact had no authority to file a grievance in the first place.
Nena Martin, however, remains unconvinced, telling her members that American had shown a “blatant disregard of the plain language” of the bargaining agreement.
Martin will be hoping to garner as much support as possible to fight this dispute, although APFA isn’t without its own problems at the moment. At the union’s annual conference in Charlotte earlier this month, Martin was suddenly made interim president after the presiding president Bob Ross was removed from his position.
While the exact details of Ross’ sacking aren’t known, it’s widely believed that he had been dogged by allegations he had made decisions in collusion with AA management against the wishes of flight attendants.
Addressing a variety of concerns, Martin said of her appointment:
“Many of you have expressed your anger and concern over some of the decisions APFA has made, while others want an explanation as to why those decisions were made.”
She said APFA management would “put political or personal agendas aside and stand as one to protect the collective rights of our members.”
And in a stern message to American, Martin warned the airline not to “take advantage” of APFA, saying that flight attendants “demand to be treated professionally.”
Arbitration for the bidding dispute has been scheduled for April 18th with APFA saying they have no intention of giving in to American’s plan.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.