American Airlines has finally agreed to offer a “partial salary” for flight attendants who choose to take a voluntary leave of absence or ‘early out’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said it was “highly offended” by the airline offering unpaid leave of absences for its flight attendants, whereas pilots were being offered paid options.
“While we are confident American and our team will now fly through this storm, there is no doubt we will have more team members than we need to fly our dramatically reduced flight schedules over the next several months,” the airline said in an internal memo.
“This provides us the opportunity to offer enhanced voluntary leave and early retirement options to our team. The primary change we made today is that we are now including a partial salary component to both the leave and early out options,” the memo continued.
The new paid options will also be extended to flight attendants who had already volunteered to take unpaid leave and will be offered in chunks of three, six, nine and 12 months. The amount of pay, however, will still be significantly less than what has been offered for pilots – just 19 flying hours compared to the 55-hours flying pay for pilots.
The new deal includes vacation and sick day accrual, as well as seniority. Health insurance will also continue to be covered, as to concessionary travel benefits.
American said the multi-billion-dollar CARES bailout bill was one of the reasons for it now offering the “enhanced” leave options. The Dallas Forth Worth-based carrier is set to receive $12 billion out of a total of $50 billion earmarked for the airline industry to keep it afloat through the Coronavirus virus.
The airline is only able to accept the money if it agrees not to involuntarily furlough any employees for the next six months or cut pay rates. “We certainly hope and expect that by that time, the virus will be contained, Americans will be flying again and we will be back to flying a full schedule,” the memo explained.
United Airlines, however, cautioned that if the Covid-19 pandemic is still having a significant impact on air travel in September that the airline might be forced to furlough employees without a further bailout.
Lori Bassani, the president of APFA has called for American to offer ‘hazard pay’ to flight attendants who continue flying through the crisis. Last week, American backtracked on banning its flight attendants from wearing face masks.
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.