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Jessica Chastain Just Came After American Airlines Over Flight Attendant Pay and Benefits

Jessica Chastain Just Came After American Airlines Over Flight Attendant Pay and Benefits

an airplane parked at an airport

The American actress Jessica Chastain, best known for roles in Hollywood blockbusters including Interstellar and Zero Dark Thirty has just come after American Airlines and other big U.S. carriers for their policy of not paying flight attendants during boarding and disembarkation.

The actress and prominent rights activist caught the attention of American Airlines when she called out the policy and questioned whether it was even legal.

According to an insider, Chastain was having dinner with an old friend who just so happens to be an American Airlines flight attendant while vacationing in Milan, Italy yesterday.  Over the course of the dinner, Chastain’s friend was quizzed about what it’s like to work as crew and, of course, the subject of pay and conditions was brought up.

It didn’t take long for Chastain to fire off a Tweet to American, Delta and United Airlines asking how it can be legal to not pay flight attendants during periods when they are clearly working and performing a safety critical role.  Unlike many other global airlines, U.S.-based airlines have implemented far more complicated pay structures which means flight attendants often don’t receive an hourly flight duty pay until after the flight has departed.

That means that lengthy processes like pre-departure briefings, prepping the plane, boarding passengers, ground delays, disembarkation and security checks all go unpaid.  In contrast, many other global airlines start paying an hourly flight pay from the moment the flight attendant checks in to when they clock off for the day.

American Airlines’ social media team took Chastain’s bait and responded by telling her contracts were negotiated between the airline and unions.  But Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) said unions had fought hard to secure decent terms but it wasn’t necessarily enough explaining that boarding was often the hardest part of the day (preach).

Others, though, have pointed out that it isn’t necessarily that simple – you could pay flight attendants for boarding and deplaning but in that case the hourly rate would most likely to reduced.  Other flight attendants have even questioned whether domestic trips should suddenly see better pay than exhausting long-haul sectors.

The spat comes as the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents many of American’s 25,000 flight attendants (not to be confused with Sara Nelson’s AFA-CWA) is pressing American to improve pay and conditions for its members.  There are already several Presidential Grievances in the works and now the union wants to start contract negotiations early in a bid to secure a better deal.

In an emailed statement, American Airlines that crew members are “paid according to the collective bargaining agreement we have with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).”

The spokesperson continued: “Rates can vary, depending if they’re in the air or on the ground. And all of our flight attendant team members receive compensation starting with the minute they report for duty – which ranges from 1:00 hour to 1:15 hours before the very first flight in their trip.”

Chastain has been a vocal proponent of equal pay and gender equality and has previously supported a veterans empowerment project.  Her next big project will see Chastain join the X-Men film series in Dark Phoenix which is due for release later this year.

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