Many junior flight attendants at American Airlines are livid. They need to stop and count their blessings. I know, so easy for me to say from the comfort of my armchair. But hear me out.
Why Junior American Airlines Flight Attendants Are Angry
The CARES Act guarantees that flight attendants will be paid for the minimum monthly hours they usually get for flying whether they fly or not. With AA planning a May schedule that has been cut by more than 75% versus May 2019, there is simply not enough work to go around.
American Airlines’ antiquated flight bidding system is (allegedly) unable to accommodate “opt-in” bidding or reduced hours for flight attendants. While that sounds suspicious, the fact that so many airline systems are still operating with antiquated 1970s and 1980s technology does not make this a surprise. As such, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing AA flight attendants, was forced to develop a solution.
APFA decided that May flights would only be assigned to the most junior flight attendants, explaining its reasoning here. Junior flight attendants will bid while senior flight attendants will get the entire month off.
In other words, senior flight attendants will be paid more to sit at home while junior flight attendants will continue to work for lower pay. Unsurprisingly, there is anger among junior flight attendants for this union decision.
Indeed, The Situation Isn’t Fair For Junior American AA Attendants
There is no question there are problems to this approach. American’s junior flight attendants are understandably upset. Lines (routes) are awarded based upon seniority. Senior flight attendants are given preferential lines and junior flight attendants get the leftovers or fly reserve, not even sure where they will fly until they receive a phone call in the middle of the night. Now, instead of also awarding routes based upon seniority, the opposite is occurring: juniors are assigned while seniors stay home.
The idea that your senior colleagues are paid far more than you to sit home and do nothing must be upsetting.
Be Thankful, Be Thankful, Be Thankful
Junior AA flight attendants have taken to the APFA Facebook group to express their outrage. Much of the anger is directed at the union itself. Here are some samples:
“Having a policy that forces part of the workgroup to bear the entire burden of working during a pandemic is a financial and divisive disaster! What were y’all thinking? You need to come up with a more equitable solution. This is 100% not ok!!!”
“This is the same union that submits tons of grievances for contract violations but then turns around and does the EXACT SAME THING the company does.”
“You guys don’t deserve any of our money. A sham of a ‘union’.”
“The APFA has proven to us time and time again that they could careless about the lives of those bellow 18000 seniority. We are nothing but voiceless due payers to them. Today they not only threw us under the bus, as would be expected, but they also chose to blatantly violate our contract.”
And some sardonic humor:
“Will furloughs be handled in inverse seniority order too?”
* * *
Ok junior AA flight attendants, let me ask you this. How can you be upset for being paid to do the work you signed up for when you took the job? Are you being asked to work more? No. In fact, with most in-flight service cut, your job becomes much easier than it was before.
And is there any other solution? Your union system is based upon seniority. It always has been, and likely always will be. Let’s say there was a bidding system that asked if you wanted to fly during the month of May. Would any of you say yes? And if not, wouldn’t the same result occur anyway, with those most senior able to choose their preferred route, in this case, staying at home?
I realize that you are bearing the brunt of the risk, but do you really want your older colleagues in higher-risk groups to suffer during this temporary time of uncertainty? Isn’t the spirit of camaraderie more than just everyone pulls their equal share but about selfless sacrifice to protect the most vulnerable? I’m speaking generally, of course.
And finally, U.S. taxpayers, including me, bailed you out. My business has had no bailout. I have received no personal bailout and my monthly income has cratered. I would be forever grateful if I could just continue to write this blog or consult clients and still receive payment approaching previous months. Heck, I’d work even harder out of thankfulness for such an opportunity. Look at the world around you not just your senior colleagues. You’re very fortunate. Be thankful you still have your jobs.
Hospital Work Instead For Flight Attendants?
Earlier today, I wrote about how Singapore Airlines is redeploying some cabin crew members to assist in a large public hospital in Singapore. I’d like to see that here. Would you be in favor of that? I’m sure that would send senior flight attendants back to work if they had a choice between flying or lifting patients, changing diapers, and serving drinks and meals in hospitals five days per week, nine hours per day.
The idea that flight attendants are paid handsomely to sit at home while those that work are paid less does seem unfair. In fact, it is unfair. But junior flight attendants, it seems to me, are not in a position to complain considering their salaries are guaranteed (for now) and they are not being asked to do any additional work, just their normal work.
I hope AA and APFA can come up with a better solution. Maybe a lottery is fair during this time. But whatever that solution is, I doubt we will see senior flight attendants working while junior flight attendants are paid to sit at home. The system just wasn’t designed that way.
Am I way off in my analysis? Join the conversation below.
(H/T: One Mile at a Time // image: AA)