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Flight Attendants at Frontier Airlines File For Federal Mediation After Wages Plummet By 20% Due to Carrier’s ‘Turn Only’ Model

Flight Attendants at Frontier Airlines File For Federal Mediation After Wages Plummet By 20% Due to Carrier’s ‘Turn Only’ Model

a group of airplanes parked on a runway

Flight attendants at Frontier Airlines have filed for federal mediation to get the ultra-low-cost carrier to enter into new contract negotiations after CEO Barry Biffle dramatically changed how crew members work.

In an attempt to slash costs, Frontier is transitioning to a predominantly ‘turn only’ model in which pilots and flight attendants end each day of work at their home base rather than staying overnight in hotels in different cities.

Flight attendants use the term ‘turn’ to describe this type of work because once they’ve flown to a destination, they ‘turn’ right back around and return to where they came from.

Biffle hopes a turn-only model will cut hotel and transport costs and help the airline recover quicker during irregular operations like severe weather, which can strand crew members in far-flung cities, creating a nightmare for scheduling teams to recrew flights.

But for flight attendants, not only is the turn-only business model something they didn’t sign up for when they decided to join Frontier, but they are seeing their wages dramatically affected by the change.

In fact, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents crew members at the Denver-based carrier, claims that some flight attendants have seen their wages plummet by nearly 20% while being required 40% more than before.

“Frontier’s new business model is shifting company costs to frontline worker,” slammed Sara Nelson, the national president of AFA, who claims Frontier’s flight attendant contract was never designed for a turn-only model and wants the airline to enter negotiations to get it rewritten… quickly.

“The change in work lives and pay is staggering,” Nelson commented on Wednesday. “The harm to Flight Attendants is immediate and requires urgent bargaining to address the impact of the new business model.”

Late last month, AFA announced that it believes Frontier’s turn-only model represented a ‘major dispute’ under the Railway Labor Act, which would allow the two sides to renegotiate the contract outside of normal bargaining.

Frontier hasn’t, however, yet come to the table to discuss a rewrite of the contract so AFA hopes the National Mediation Board will force their hand.

Matt’s take

Turn-only airlines can be a popular choice for flight attendants who want to spend each night at home, but many crew members at Frontier chose to work for the airline exactly because it offered multi-day length trips with layovers.

Of course, Frontier Airlines is free to change its business model, but it makes sense that it should first consider the impact those changes will have on its workers. For flight attendants, the current contract is designed to award multi-day trips, so AFA seems to be making a reasonable demand to reenter contract talks to address this disparity.

View Comments (8)
  • It just goes to show the the flight attendants’ per diem was too high.

    Per diem is supposed to cover expenses, not be another income stream.

    • Have to rely on it for income stream due to not getting paid until the plane takes off (no pay while in delay). Start the pay when getting to the airport I think would be the solution.

  • Looks like the Flight Attendants don’t like there home base so much and want to be in a different city every night not knowing when they’d get home. Fly for a different airline people!

  • This is more of a general problem with what time counts for FA’s…
    Clock in – Clock out – time in between is paid
    No more of this closing doors nonsense
    Leaving airport clock stops.
    And if you want to travel and stay overnight in a. different city every night then get a different career.
    The glamour of air travel is long gone and the seats for free travel scarce.
    Oh and it’s an airlines responsibility to operate for profit and not to accommodate your travel wishes….

    Sorry to burst that bubble….

    • Funny. Every clock-in job I’ve had was you didn’t start working until you clocked in. Not the case here. Clock-in time for frontier is when the door is closed yet they spend hours of non-paid labor before and after landing.

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