Spirit Airlines flight attendants met with management in Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago to hear the company’s final pay proposal as part of a new collective bargaining agreement and to say union leaders were less than impressed would be a big understatement.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has described the pay deal as an ‘insult’ and suggested that its members at Spirit are now earning ‘poverty wages’.
If flight attendants were to accept the pay offer, AFA claims its members would be earning mere ‘pennies more’ than fellow flight attendants at rival low-cost carrier Frontier and far less than flight attendants at jetBlue which is hoping to acquire Spirit.
Spirit last ratified a collective bargaining agreement with its flight attendants back in 2016, but the flight attendant union claims the airline is now only willing to offer a pay rise of 7 percent on average.
This year alone, AFA reports that inflation has soared more than 23 percent meaning that flight attendants will, in real terms, be out of pocket if they accept the pay offer.
In fact, entry-level flight attendants will benefit from the biggest rise (around 21 percent) under Spirit’s proposed new hourly pay rates, whilst most flight attendants who have been with the airline for a few years would only see a 5 percent increase in their wages.
“The company’s proposal to us does not even meet the most recent cost-of-living increases,” the union complained in a recent memo to flight attendants as it called on members to wear green ribbons on their uniforms as a symbol of solidarity against the airline’s proposal.
In return for a pay rise, Spirit wants flight attendants to accept an end to ‘schedule integrity’ which means that the airline would be allowed to change rostered flights at a moment’s notice up to 36 times in a year.
Labor relations between Spirit and its own flight attendants have been sour for months and in April, flight attendants picketed the airline at airports across the United States over what they called “blatant contract violations”.
The union claims a series of embarrassing operational meltdowns were only resolved by Spirit management after flight attendants took to picketing the airline.
Contract negotiations are set to restart on September 27, but in the meantime, flight attendants are being encouraged to bombard management with messages about how bad their proposed and ‘final’ offer is.
The union does, though, have a word of warning for its members: “Although you may be upset, please be respectful and mindful that your message is going to be read by another human being.”
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.