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Work For Free? Flight Attendants Demand to be Paid For Boarding in New Online Campaign

Work For Free? Flight Attendants Demand to be Paid For Boarding in New Online Campaign

United Airlines flight attendants take a meal order onboard a plane

An online petition to get airlines to pay flight attendants for boarding has amassed more than 100,000 signatures in a little over a week since it went live. Flight attendants at many U.S.-based airlines are only paid from the moment the aircraft door closes and the plane pushes back from the gate meaning that pre-departure services are done effectively for free.

The rules can differ slightly from airline to airline but the creator of the petition explains the process at their airline: “Flight Attendants are currently not paid for boarding. They are paid what is deemed as ‘hourly rate’ which is below minimum wage.”

“Until the door is closed and the brakes are lifted flight attendants are paid on average $2.00/hour. Even though they are required by their company and the FAA to be there and perform crucial job-related safety and customer service duties.”

Flight attendants say the time spent carrying out pre-departure services has been steadily increasing over the last decade. Around 10 years ago, boarding for a domestic flight took just 30 minutes but has now increased to at least 40 minutes. Boarding can be one of the busiest and most stressful parts of a flight.

The campaign has attracted renewed attention as more airlines reintroduce pre-departure services that were suspended during the pandemic. From February 16, American Airlines will resume pre-departure beverage service, although some flight attendants plan to “flout” the rules in defiance of the airline.

Of course, it’s not just carrying out pre-departure beverage services that have irked flight attendants. Some flight attendants have been sharing their crazy pre-departure stories that they say makes them deserving of additional pay during boarding.

“One time I had a baby have a seizure during boarding,” one flight attendant said. “The mother stood up and tried to make her way to the lead flight attendant but people were blocking her and not letting her through.”

“We had to physically push people into seats to allow the mother to pass through. We went into full medical crisis mode. After this crazy dump of cortisol and fear, we had to continue boarding like nothing had happened.

“We were completely spent before we even started making a cent”.

Some people who signed the petition said they had considered becoming a flight attendant but were put off after finding out about the “crockery” of not being paid for boarding. Others, however, were less sympathetic.

“Did they take the job knowing what the pay would be?” one person wrote. “If they don’t like it they can find a job somewhere else.”

Despite the popularity of the petition, flight attendants shouldn’t expect the rules to change anytime soon. The vast majority of flight attendants are represented by unions who have negotiated contracts that don’t pay their members for boarding and these contracts can’t simply be rewritten.

In fact, these kinds of contracts are a careful balancing act where it might still remain desirable to go unpaid during boarding for better conditions elsewhere.

View Comments (12)
  • How much does a flight attendant make? I have heard they can make upwards of 98k a years. With average of 75k seems they are paid well enough. Especially with so many folks applying for the postion.

    • Wrong, a very small percentage make that kind of $$$, I made under 30,000 last year (I’m happy to show you my W2) and I’m a lead FA. Some FAs are on food stamp because they qualify because most of us make so little.

        • Why can’t we expect a living wage AND have flight benefits? I do pay an annual fee for those as well so they aren’t “free” just reduced. Lile many places that people work you get a reduced rate for being an employee.

  • They can make in the high 100’s based on seniority and are flooded with free passes that allow them to fly themselves and their families around the world. They don’t even break a sweat during pre-board. They are usually huddled in the back galley catching up or selling their shifts/trips for profit to more junior attendants that are looking for better trips. In a word, RETIRE, instead of being a non performing joke that is trying to score two salaries and screw their co-workers at the same time. Most of them are not tall enough to assist a passenger who needs to stow their bag in an overhead compartment. And that’s just the preboard. God forbid you need something during the flight, you’d be playing Airline Price Is Right, trying to find out who is behind galley curtain #1, or maybe #2, or is 3 the magic number. Here’s a thought, instead of having a reunion at the back of the plane, snap some rubber gloves on and get to cleaning and disinfecting.

    • Wow You are rejected from the airline to be a FA or you got fired from the airline as junior FA ?? you are very bitter against this workers
      I wonder if you like to work for free
      I don’t think so

      • I was thinking the same thing…this commenter does seem bitter.
        Every industry gives employees benefits, so lets not quibble. I’m all for an increase to a living wage; heck minimal wage is going to $15 or $20/hr…so why aren’t FA included? Union contracts come up for renewal every so often, right?

  • Wow! Nauseating. Just think about the FAs that have to put up with mean and spiteful people like you during boarding, I’ll take a medical emergency any day over nastyness. For the incredibly small percentage of FAs that get paid “in the 100’s” there’s the rest of us that make below poverty wages, I’ve NEVER gotten a free pass=I CAN fly stand by which is based on space available, I’m 5’7″ so plenty tall to stow YOUR bag but I won’t get workers comp if I get injured doing it because it’s actually not part of our duties. And you think I should add cleaning to my duties while being paid 2.00 and hour??? Please don’t fly or if you decide to educate yourself. I’ve been chocked, frequently yelled at, had people injured (and die) during boarding so yes I believe we should get paid more than 2.00.

  • I believe it’s an attitude issue from multiple sides…
    Let me explain:
    – I got up in the middle of the night for many years as a fire volunteer and cut drinks out of wrecked vehicles so paid or not when a child has a seizure ANYONE should be willing to help and if you need to be paid for that then there is something way off with your thinking
    – the FA contracts are a package deal. It means you can calculate how much you will make on an annual basis and take it or leave it. It’s called total compensation and the deal is your pay starts when the doors close. The deal also includes buddy passes, health insurance, being able to live and commute pretty much anywhere you want and commute standby but free of charge. So it’s not like an FA does not have the ability to fully understand what the deal
    Looks like. Many companies offer salary, stock options, bonuses and nobody expects to be on the cloak and paid hourly every time you lift a finger
    – I’ve done a toke of contract work in my life and I always know what the deal is when I sign up for one. When things go wrong I ask. When we can’t come to an agreement We part ways and that’s okay
    – remember it’s the unions and their seniority crap that makes it possible for employees to feel Like they are captive because they gotta start over somewhere else
    – the recent firings of two union reps from United is a step in the right direction for all the right reasons – just sayin!!

    Otherwise everyone have a wonderful weekend and remember you are allowed to tip flight attendants!! Watch what happens!!

  • Correct grammar, please! The object of a preposition must be a noun, pronoun, or something masquerading as a noun, such as a gerund. The word “free” is an adverb or adjective, depending what it modifies. It is NOT a noun, so it cannot be the object of the preposition “for.” You can’t buy or sell the item or substance “free.” Unless you’re writing a paper which must have a minimum number of words, and you’re getting close to the minimum, leave the “for” out, you your grammar will likely be correct.

  • Why is one of the most desirable and most difficult to get in unions in world looking to the genral public for support? In fact I’m the last place they should look I make less than they do and their goal could only raise ticket prices be no different if auto shop owners asked for your support so they could be paid while preparing to work on your car.

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