Disgruntled flight attendants at Chicago-based United Airlines will be following in the footsteps of their colleagues at American Airlines next week by staging protests at key airports across the United States as well as several overseas bases. The planned “Day of Action” on December 13 is being organised by the powerful crew union, the Association of Flight Attendants CWA to protest staffing cuts on certain long-haul flights along with a host of other gripes with the airline.
United drew criticism from all sides in early November when a leaked memo revealed it would be implementing a number of service changes to facilitate the removal of at least one flight attendant from its flagship Polaris cabin on “certain international widebody flights”. The airline said it would simplify the service flow and pre-plate business class meals to reduce the overall workload of flight attendants and therefore the need for an ‘extra’ crew member.
The decision, which United claimed was in response to passenger feedback, was the last straw on the camel’s backs for both the union and many of its members. They’ve seen their employer making increasing profits, while their working conditions have been getting progressively worse – a situation they want quickly reversed.
The union says “pre-plated meals are not a substitute for Flight Attendants in the aisles,” and in a recent press release, explained:
“Staffing should be increased in these times of profits, not decreased. Cuts were made during airline bankruptcies to reduce costs. There’s no excuse for cutting jobs today, but there’s every reason for United to up its game to make it impossible for other airlines to compete.”
United has attempted to justify its decision by saying the new crewing levels will bring the airline in line with competitors such as American and Delta Air Lines but AFA says their employer shouldn’t be taking part in a “race to the bottom” – for both service and more importantly, safety.
“There’s no excuse for cutting onboard staffing today, but there is every reason for United to up its game to make it impossible for other airlines to compete. Safety, security and customer service can never be compromised.”
But staffing isn’t the only cause for concern. And the list of other issues is long – including:
- Ongoing payroll issues and discrepancies.
- Access to hotels during severe weather and irregular operations.
- Scheduling and rostering issues.
- Access to crew rest seats on certain aircraft types.
- Improvements to travel concessions.
They hope an “unprecedented” turnout at 15 rallies across the United States and worldwide on December 13 will convince United’s management to start taking them seriously. Located at major airports, the protests are likely to catch the attention of the United’s customers who will no doubt be sympathetic to the flight attendants argument for improved service and safety.
Flight attendants at American Airlines held similar protests on November 18, although their employer has so far refused to acknowledge or address the grievances they raised.
You’ll find United’s flight attendants protesting (and can join them) at the following locations and times on December 13:[ninja_tables id=”11167″]
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.