Flight attendants at American Airlines will once again request the right to go on strike for the first time in more than 30 years after their last petition was quickly rejected by federal mediators.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents crew members at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier, said on Tuesday that it wanted permission to take strike action after recent negotiating sessions had failed to break a deadlock over pay rises.
Labor relations for flight attendants at U.S.-based airlines are managed under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, and as such, they must get permission from an independent federal body called the National Mediation Board to go on strike.
APFA first requested to be released into a formal 30-day cooling-off period, which precedes any strike on November 20, 2023, but the NMB quickly rejected their demand a little more than a week later.
Since then, the union and airline negotiators have met for two rounds of federally mediated talks in Tampa in December 2023 and, most recently, in Dallas on January 9 and 10.
On both occasions, American Airlines failed to increase its pay offer.
“At these sessions, American Airlines management had every opportunity to present another economic proposal,” the union explained in a memo on Tuesday.
“They did not. Instead, they have chosen to cling to their rigid economic framework that does not address our current economic needs.”
“APFA will be approaching the National Mediation Board this week to reiterate our request to be released into a thirty-day cooling off period,” the memo continued.
The union has, however, been quick to manage the expectations of its members, warming frsutrated flight attendants that actually getting permission from the NMB won’t be a ‘simple task’.
In fact, the NMB hasn’t approved a strike by airline employees since 2010, when pilots at Spirit virtually grounded the airline for six days.
American Airlines has proposed a pay deal that would see flight attendants get an 11% pay raise over four years, whereas the union has demanded a rise closer to 50%. The airline has refused to table a counteroffer.
The NMB did not provide a reason for refusing APFA’s request to enter the 30-day cooling-off period, and it remains unclear what would need to change for the agency to approve strike action amongst American Airlines flight attendants.
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.