Last week, we reported on developments at the main flight attendants union which represents over 27,000 crew members at American Airlines. After a series of disastrous policy implementations by the airline, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said it was putting its members on ‘High Alert’ – the question was, could that ultimately include flight attendants going on strike?
Flight attendants have plenty of reasons to feel aggrieved with their employer at the moment – American is still integrating its work systems and employment policies from the U.S. Airways merger back in 2013 but not everything has gone to plan. In particular, flight attendants are having to put up with a glitchy scheduling system which doesn’t respect the conditions of their contract.
Then there’s a new attendance and performance program which is set to be introduced in October. The points-based system has been heavily criticised by both the union and many flight attendants – critics are concerned the system doesn’t take account of individual circumstances and could see flight attendants unfairly dismissed.
And of course, on top of that, American has been dealing with the well documented toxic uniform debacle (a replacement uniform is being worked on), an ongoing campaign to increase the minimum rest for crew between flights to at least 10-hours (on par with what pilots already enjoy) and concerns over toxic cabin air (several recent incidents just go to highlight APFA’s concerns).
It’s clearly a period of huge change for American – trying to bring legacy AA and Legacy U.S. Air flight attendants together for the first time but it hasn’t been without its difficulties. Morale amongst flight attendants at the airline is said to be lower than has been in years.
In a recent letter sent to flight attendants, Lorrie Bassani, APFA’s national president said she was placing the union’s members on “High Alert” over the ongoing dispute – the question at the time was, what did High Alert even mean – and could it result in strike action at some point in the future?
That’s not a road flight attendants are going to go down quickly. The last time American’s flight attendants threatened to strike was in 2001 when a post-bankruptcy contract was being negotiated. At the time, the White House even considered ways to stop the strike action from going ahead (in the end, a negotiated settlement was agreed without the need for a strike).
As it stands, APFA is instead calling on flight attendants to picket American Airlines offices – the first event will take place at AA’s headquarters in Dallas Fort Worth on Thursday 30th August between 7.30am to 9.30am. More events are set to announced soon.
The theme of the event is ‘wAAke up American!’ although how much notice the airline will take remains unclear. The union has already filed what’s referred to as a “presidential grievance” over two of the biggest issues – the scheduling system and attendance policy. Mediation between the two sides may still be enough to resolve this ongoing dispute.