Sara Nelson, dubbed ‘the most powerful flight attendant in the United States’ (perhaps even the world), has been reelected as president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) for a new four-year term.
The Association of Flight Attendants is by far the largest cabin crew union in the world, representing some 50,000 crew members at 18 airlines. The union’s largest workgroup is the more than 20,000 flight attendants at United Airlines, while its newest members will soon start flying for Norse, a transatlantic low-cost carrier.
In between, AFA represents flight attendants at Alaska, Frontier and Spirit Airlines and under Nelson’s direction, the union is once again embarking on a concerted campaign to convince flight attendants at Delta Air Lines to join the fold and unionize for the first time in the company’s history.
Unionizing Delta flight attendants would be a major coup for Nelson after several failed attempts at getting the job done. A 25-year flight attendant at United Airlines, Nelson first became a union member in 1996 and has been international president of AFA since 2014.
Already a rising star of the labor movement, Nelson really came to prominence in 2019 when her calls for a general strike were credited with helping to end President Trump’s government shutdown.
The following year, Nelson won plaudits for leading calls for a federal emergency relief fund for the pandemic-hit aviation business. The multi-billion-dollar rescue package helped secure the jobs of tens of thousands of flight attendants and many other airline workers.
Under Nelson’s militant leadership, however, AFA has been criticized for some of its political campaignings including its support, until recently, of the federal face mask mandate. Nelson and AFA recently joined the Roe v. Wade debate, calling the Supreme Court’s draft decision a “radical assault on our rights”.
Nelson was reelected at the 49th AFA-CWA Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday. Shortly after being confirmed in the position, Nelson told attendees: “Some may call these times desperate. We can recognize them as a call to action.”
“In the worst of times, working people have risen up to achieve our greatest gains,” Nelson continued. “Stronger together, better together is not just our slogan; it is our calling.”
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.