The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) claims the new management team at United Airlines is “intent on dividing” flight attendants in the wake of the announcement that three foreign crew bases will close on October 1. Yesterday, United told staffers that its international domiciles in Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Tokyo would shutter for good after 26 years of operations.
Giving affected flight attendants the minimum 90-day notice period of the proposed closures required, United’s head of inflight services, John Slater said in the leaked memo that a fourth foreign crew base located at London’s Heathrow Airport would remain open for now.
Flight attendants based in Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Tokyo will not, however, be allowed to transfer to London, although some may be eligible to transfer to a base in the United States. Around 840 flight attendants will be affected but only a small number have the legal right to both live and work in the US.
The Association of Flight Attendants points out that United currently holds 20 slots at London Heathrow, of which only five are regularly operated by foreign-based flight attendants. AFA wants United to expand its base in London and effectively hand over more flights to its foreign-based flight attendants.
“The Job security protections exist for all Flight Attendants across the system,” the union told members on Friday night, explaining that any perceived breach of the flight attendant contract “is an injustice to all of us”.
The memo continued: “The Master Executive Council declares its full support for the affected Flight Attendants and unanimously condemns any egregious violation of the contractual rights of our Members, and we pledge to engage all Flight Attendants in support of protecting job security and all contractually negotiated protections for all United Flight Attendants.”
The relationship between flight attendants and new United chief executive Scott Kirby has got off to an uneasy start with the two sides already clashing on several different issues. Just a couple of weeks ago, AFA seemingly accused Kirby of trying to divide flight attendants and for individual workers to accept less than what has been contractually agreed.
Kirby and flight attendant representatives didn’t see eye to eye on a proposal to reduce crew numbers in light of drastically reduced passenger loads because of the ongoing Corona crisis and the union has urged Kirby to “there are real people behind the numbers.”
United has been contacted for comment over the proposed base closures.
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.