Flight attendants working for three regional carriers that are wholly owned by American Airlines will get pay raises, bonuses and improved benefits, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) announced on Wednesday.
The news comes as the aviation industry seeks to head off a summer staffing crisis that has finally convinced regional carriers they need to retain staff in a sector that traditionally has an alarmingly high turnover rate.
“This is going to be a tough summer and we’re glad American and their wholly-owned airlines decided to work with us to provide incentives, make it more manageable to get to work, and attract new hires to the skies,” commented Sara Nelson, international president of the flight attendants union.
“What’s good for the crew is good for the airline and the passengers who expect a safe, reliable travel experience,” Nelson continued.
New hire flight attendants will start earning an hourly flying rate of at least $27 – an increase of around $8 per hour compared to what new hire flight attendants at Piedmont Airlines were earning before today’s deal was struck.
In addition, all flight attendants currently earning below this rate will be bumped up to an hourly rate of $27, while flight attendants on the step above the starting salary will be offered a $3,000 retention bonus.
There will also be the opportunity for flight attendants to earn up to $4,500 in a summer reliability incentive bonus. The scheme will be broken into three time periods with flight attendants awarded $1,000, $1,500 and $2,000 respectively if they hit the target for each period.
Acknowledging, that many regional flight attendants are forced to ‘commute’ to their flying base from a city where it’s cheaper to live, the regional carriers will offer enhanced commuter benefits like providing more hotel rooms and reimbursements for commuting flights.
The deal encompasses flight attendants employed by Envoy Air, PSA and Piedmont Airlines.
In the past, regional carriers were an easier way for aspiring flight attendants to get into the industry. Pay, benefits and working conditions have, though, traditionally lagged behind what is offered at ‘mainline’ airlines even when flight attendants wear the same uniform and do the same job.
In a post-pandemic world, however, even mainline airlines can’t hire flight attendants fast enough. On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines reopened recruitment yet again, while American has opened its flight attendant recruitment window on at least three occasions in 2022.
Earlier this week, both Envoy and Piedmont announced massive pay rises for regional pilots including a 50 per cent temporary pay hike that has been extended through to the end of 2024.
First officers will also benefit from a permanent 6 per cent pay raise, while Captain’s will enjoy a 10 per cent pay hike. Pilots are encouraged to join a regional airline in the hope of eventually ‘flowing’ through to the mainline where pay and benefits are even better.
American Airlines chief executive Rober Isom has acknowledged that with pilots in short supply, the “standard for compensation has gone up” and that the mainline carrier may have to offer its pilots more than originally proposed.
The same could be said of mainline flight attendants who are currently involved in in-depth contract negotiations.
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.