American Airlines is threatening to discipline flight attendants who wear t-shirts emblazoned with their union’s logo while on flights to or from the carrier’s training center near Dallas.
The threat has provoked an angry response from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), who have filed a presidential grievance with American Airlines and demanded bosses revoke the threat of discipline immediately.
The issue came to a head after APFA started to issue bright red t-shirts to its members emblazoned with the union’s logo. The t-shirts are just one way that the union is trying to put pressure on the airline during difficult contract negotiations.
The t-shirts aren’t, however, said to feature a new logo which reads ‘We Are Ready’ – a shortened version of APFA’s call that they and AA’s flight attendants are ready to strike if their demands for big pay rises and other contract improvements aren’t met.
The first letter of each word has been capitalized and written in a different color so as to spell out ‘WAR’.
On Monday, however, AA’s managing director of labor relations took issue with the t-shirts, specifically the fact that flight attendants were wearing them during their annual mandatory refresher training, calling them “divisive” and alleging that they could distract crew members.
Shortly afterwards, American Airlines issued a ban on flight attendants wearing any form of slogan shirt while at training school or during flights to or from training.
APFA is now seeking to challenge the ban, saying that its t-shirts depict a logo and not a slogan and should, therefore, be allowed.
“According to Oxford Languages, a ‘slogan’ is defined as ‘a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising.’ Conversely, a ‘logo’ is defined as ‘a symbol or other design adopted by an organization to identify its products, uniform, vehicles, etc.’ The APFA logo is clearly a symbol, not a phrase, meaning a shirt displaying the AFFA logo is not a ‘t-shirt with a slogan’,” the union wrote in a letter to airline bosses that was leaked by aviation insider xJonNYC on social media platform X.
The union also says that AA has never banned logos or even slogan t-shirts at its training school, so it can’t implement a ban now.
“It is unquestionably evident that the Company’s prohibition of Flight Attendants wearing an APFA logo shirt to/from and while attending training is solely intended to ‘chill’ and/or suppress lawful union activity,” the union wrote in the letter to AA’s labor relations legal team.
Last week, APFA admitted that it had accepted help from the Association of Flight Attendants, the largest crew union in the US, which represents flight attendants at United, Alaska and Frontier Airlines, amongst others.
The Association of Flight Attendants has made its chief negotiator available to APFA as they try to break a deadlock in stalled contract talks with AA. Flight attendants at the airline have already voted overwhelmingly in favor of strike action, but the union must pursue every opportunity to reach a deal before it has any chance of being ‘released’ by federal mediators to conduct ‘self-help’.
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.