This could get very interesting… while Delta Air Lines is currently the largest and only mainline airline in the United States not to have unionized flight attendants, that could all change after America’s largest flight attendant union announced it’s support for organizing crew at the carrier. And by doing so, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) is not only stepping on the toes of a rival union but is also inviting the full resources of the Atlanta-based airline to be thrown against it.
Yesterday afternoon, the union sent a delegation to Delta’s hometown as it announced it was “putting its full resources” behind efforts of Delta’s own flight attendants to form a union. Sara Nelson, president of AFA and dubbed America’s most powerful flight attendant, said her union had heard from thousands of Delta’s staffers who wanted her union to help them.
“This campaign is more than a union drive; it’s a means to promote the reality that we’re in this together and to make flying better for passengers and crew alike,” Nelson explained.
“Delta Flight Attendants are the heart of the airline and key to its industry-leading success. They deserve a union contract that leads the industry too,” she continued.
According to an MIT study cited by the union, flight attendants at Delta earn up to $14,000 less per year than their colleagues at comparable airlines when compensation from wages, benefits and profit-sharing are combined. Separately, AFA say’s “it knows” that Delta pays $100 million less per year for flight attendant costs in the same size operation.
Just talk of flight attendants organizing with the help of AFA has led Delta to improve terms and conditions claims Nelson. In the last few months, Delta has improved flight attendants basic pay and promised to implement a minimum of 10-hours rest on certain duties ahead of schedule – although, it’s important to point out that the airline cited different reasons for these improvements.
“The energy and excitement for our Flight Attendant union is palpable,” AFA told its current members, which currently number in excess of 50,000 members at 20 different airlines including United.
Not that trying to organize Delta’s flight attendants is anything new. For years, a separate union – the International Association of Machinists (IAM) – has been encouraging crew at the airline to trigger a new union vote. They said they were “deeply concerned” and “disappointed” by AFA’s announcement.
“The IAM Delta campaign is strong and ongoing. As more information regarding this matter becomes available, the IAM will make such information available to all Delta Flight Attendants,” the union said in a statement posted to its website.
The last narrowly lost vote on joining a union was nine years ago – it’s unclear how close either IAM or AFA are to triggering a new vote.
In the past, Delta has come in for heavy criticism for efforts its made to dissuade flight attendants from joining a union. Not only does the airline say unionization will ruin the culture and relationship between the company and workers but that things like pay and profit-sharing could actually go down under a union-negotiated workforce.
Last year, the airline was blasted after leaked anti-union posters created by the airline claimed flight attendants and ramp workers would be better off buying a games console than union dues.
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.