Flight attendants at American Airlines have only cleared $80,000 of a $3 million debt pile of overdue union dues that are owed to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents the airline’s 28,000 inflight crew members.
The massive bill for late union dues was revealed in March after APFA threatened to send debt collectors after persistent offenders who refused to even try to clear their debts.
Under the Railway Labor Act, the union is legally entitled to represent every single mainline AA flight attendant, and crew members don’t get a choice whether or not to join the union.
In fact, union membership is written into the collective labor agreement and racking up unpaid union dues could land flight attendants in hot water including termination in extreme cases.
With AA’s apparent eagerness to enforce labor agreements to the letter and terminations allegedly running at three times the rate of pre-pandemic levels, the threat of being sacked for refusing to pay union isn’t just an idle one.
During a recent meeting of the union’s executive committee, APFA revealed that some flight attendants had requested payment plans, while improved internal processes should prevent flight attendants from racking up arrears in the future.
The pandemic is likely to have been a big reason why so many flight attendants are now classed by the union as in ‘bad standing’ because many crew members took some form of leave of absence or had their pay and working time reduced.
Earlier this month, the union lashed out at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline, accusing it of “stuffing as much time” into flight attendant rosters as possible with “zero consideration” for the well-being of crew members.
Rather than addressing the “root problems”, the union claims AA is simply putting even more flight attendants on reserve duty so that they can be called from standby to fill in the gaps in broken trip sequences.
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.