United’s flight attendants took to airport concourses around the world yesterday with a simple message – they work for an airline, not a hedge fund. Waving bright yellow placards that read “Staffing cuts affect safety and service” and “Fewer jobs, less Service, profits over people” the flight attendants were protesting a recent plan by the Chicago-based airline to cut the number of flight attendants onboard some of its flagship international services.
A coordinated series of protests at 16 airports, including Hong Kong and London, as well as key United hubs like Denver and Chicago saw flight attendants and affiliated supporters including ground and catering staff make their voice heard in an unprecedented show of solidarity.
Many of the protestors waved apple cores – a symbol of an internal motivational strategy at the airline that the union says United isn’t living up to. Others shouted slogans including “United’s greed has got to go” and “corporate greed is getting old”.
What lit the touchpaper for this “Day of Action” was a recent decision to axe at least one member of cabin crew from certain long-haul flights. United claimed the move would bring its staffing levels in line with key competitors such as American and Delta Air Lines. An attempt to spin the news by saying pre-plated Business Class meals would negate the need for one crew member infuriated the union and staffers.
The action, which was organised by one of the largest flight attendant unions in the United States, drew widespread support with many staffers braving freezing temperatures to make their voices heard.
So far, the airline hasn’t publicly commented on the demonstrations and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that United plans to reverse the cuts. It will be interesting to see what the union and its members plan to do next. We’ve reached out to United for comment but had not received a reply by the time this story was published.
— ERNESTO DEL VALLE 🇲🇽🇺🇸 (@ErnestoDelValle) December 13, 2018
— ᴊᴀᴍᴇs ʀᴜssᴇʟʟ (@JamesRussell88) December 13, 2018
Hnl was very powerful and passionate with our message to management. With thank all of our brothers and sisters from other bases to get out the message and we also say Mahalo to the Local 5 for their support and energy. #EnoughCuts pic.twitter.com/wNHh4PEaQA
— Dwayne (@mylesabove1) December 14, 2018
— Cathy Torres (@theRealCTorres) December 13, 2018
— Christian Bowie (@bigdaddybow) December 13, 2018
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.