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American Airlines is Issuing ‘Poverty Verification Letters’ For New-Hire Flight Attendants Because Their Wages Are So Low

American Airlines is Issuing ‘Poverty Verification Letters’ For New-Hire Flight Attendants Because Their Wages Are So Low

an airplane on the runway

American Airlines is reportedly issuing so-called ‘poverty verification letters’ for some new-hire flight attendants based in the most expensive metro areas in the United States, urging the recipients to help out the flight attendant because they are only set to warn little more than $27,000 per year before tax.

The leaked letter is being provided on official American Airlines letterheads to recently hired flight attendants based in cities like New York, Miami, Boston and Dallas in an attempt to help them find accommodation.

The letter states: “The projected annual salary is $27,315 per year before incentives and taxes… Any courtesy you can provide would be appreciated”.

In reality, many new hire flight attendants can’t afford to live in the same city they have been based in and are forced to ‘commute’ from cheaper towns and cities, using jump seating privileges to get to and from work.

In between shifts, many flight attendants rely on ‘crash pads’, which are converted houses and apartments where crew members have to hotbed in bunks squished into small rooms.

As reported by View from the Wing late last year, some Boston-based flight attendants are even eligible for food stamps because their take-home pay is so low.

Flight attendants are guaranteed 75 hours of reserve work per month, although in reality, many crewmembers will end up working much more than that in order to make a living wage.

One of the biggest problems for new-hire flight attendants without a fixed schedule, however, is that they will generally end up working mostly domestic routes with multiple flights per day.

Because flight attendants are only paid an hourly rate from aircraft pushback to arrival, they could be working many hours a day during boarding and in between flights without getting paid.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents AA’s crewmembers, has even urged the airline to provide free meals for flight attendants during domestic flights because new-hire workers are “struggling to survive”.

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.

The union would like American Airlines to provide free crew meals to all flight attendants working duty days of eight hours more, but that request has been rebuffed by the airline.

Flight attendants at American Airlines haven’t received a pay raise since 2019, after their contract became amendable. Negotiations to reach a new contract are still stalled, and until a deal is made, flight attendant wages won’t go up a cent.

Earlier this week, APFA staged a protest outside the White House in an attempt to pressure the Biden administration into letting them go on strike. Flight attendants at the airline have voted overwhelmingly in favor of strike action, but the current rules make it almost impossible for them actually to stage a walkout.

Matt’s take

There’s no doubt that life can be really tough for new-hire flight attendants in their first few years of employment, especially after completing a six-week unpaid training course.

Although new hire flight attendants can make more than the headline-grabbing $27,000 annual salary noted in the poverty verification letter, this requires working long hours with many of those unpaid.

In the short term, however, this is a situation that isn’t going to change until the union and American Airlines reach a new wage deal. Unfortunately, progress to reach a deal is pretty much stalled.

View Comments (4)
  • “because they are only set to warn little more than $27,000 ”

    I think you meant to say “only set to EARN …”

  • This is a major safety issue. Flight attendants are SAFETY attendants, and struggling to get by financially and working long hours without reasonable pay WILL lead someone to fail to do their job properly. It’s a ticking time bomb.

  • AMERICAN AIRLINES is a POVERTY PIMP! They work attendants like Georgia slaves and then pay them poverty wages. This may look glamorous but it’s not a situation of where you can afford the cities that you have to overnight in while away from home. NO ONE SHOULD WORK FOR WAGES THAT LEADS TO POVERTY!

  • What the flught attendants need is a union, so they will get paid what entry level flight attendants across the industry get paid…oh…wait…

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