The union which represents flight attendants at American Airlines says the carrier is refusing to provide meals for struggling new hire crew members who are working long duty days in the air and are then forced to buy food in expensive airport concessions.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) wants senior crew members to earn as much as $92 per hour but new hire flight attendants in their first year of work at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline are currently earning just one-third of that.
Based in some of the most expensive cities in the United States, the union says junior flight attendants are “struggling to survive” and that worrying about finding food during a long workday with multiple flights is yet another stress that they face.
It’s a dirty little secret within the U.S. aviation industry that new hire flight attendants really do struggle to survive, especially when they work mainly on reserve with no guarantee of how many paid flying hours they might get from one month to another.
Many junior flight attendants are forced to commute long distances to keep living costs down and spend days away from home sleeping in so-called ‘crash pads’ where multiple bunk beds are squeezed into small bedrooms where crew members from various airlines hotbed between duties
Bizarrely, American Airlines provides free crew meals on long-haul flights, which are mainly staffed by better-paid senior flight attendants, but domestic flights and shorter international services aren’t catered with cabin crew meals.
As part of highly contentious contract negotiations, APFA has called on American Airlines to provide crew meals for all flight attendants working duty days of eight hours or more, but the airline recently rebuffed the request, saying it wasn’t interested in changing the status quo.
American Airlines has also refused to increase per diem rates for flight attendants to buy food and drink on layovers despite inflation pushing prices ever higher.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that American Airlines wants to offer flight attendants an 11% raise on their hourly rate in a move which would bring their earnings in line with what Delta pays its flight attendants.
The flight attendant union, however, has rejected the proposal, saying it wants its members to have a rise of at least 35%, along with a slew of other pay rises and lifestyle improvements.
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.