American Airlines flight attendants overwhelmingly made their feelings clear, they aren’t happy and they are willing to strike. What does this mean for flights?
American Airlines Flight Attendants Authorize Strike
American Airlines flight attendants voted this week to authorize a strike. On August 30, 2023, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants held a strike vote looking for better wages especially for its most experienced union members. It’s important to note that this does not mean a strike is imminent. The vote is intended to put pressure on the Fort Worth, Texas based carrier and bring management to the table.
While fast paced, it’s possible that the two sides could come together before any strike takes place. However, short of reaching an agreement within 30 days, the strike remains a possibility for FAs at American. It will go before the National Mediation Board for review.
“American said, “We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in negotiations with the APFA, and we look forward to reaching an agreement that provides our flight attendants with real and meaningful value. We understand that a strike authorization vote is one of the important ways flight attendants express their desire to get a deal done.” – CNBC
FAs may picket at airports or take other measures that draw attention to their position.
United Airlines flight attendants have also indicated their displeasure meeting United know that they are ready for a contract and have been for two years. It may set the stage for similar labor group action much as we saw with ever-competing pilot pay packages earlier in the year.
I buried the lede a bit. I’m sorry. I felt like this deserved an entire section of its own.
Of the Professional Flight Attendants Association members that were eligible to vote, 93% made their voices heard. That’s a shockingly high turnout and there’s a possibility that some FAs who were eligible simply weren’t available or were unable to submit the vote rather than disinterested.
But wait, there’s more.
The vote to strike was approved by 99.5%. At that rate based on the turnout of the airline’s 26,000 flight attendants and their votes, all but 120 (give or take) flight attendants voted to authorize the strike.
What Does It Mean For Travelers?
What happens to American Airlines travelers over the next 30 days? Legally, nothing should affect their travel plans. As the CNBC article linked above makes clear,
“Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to conduct legal strikes — they need a decision from federal mediators that further negotiations would be pointless, which rarely happens. The president and Congress can also get involved to delay or block a strike.” – CNBC
However, if the FAs feel their voices aren’t being heard. It’s possible that they may make their impact felt through other labor actions. Mechanics were accused of writing excessive repair tickets to affect the airline’s performance some years ago, pilots were accused of sick-outs. These were both unconfirmed but demonstrate that in the event that a group wants to make an impact, they can do so while technically remaining on the right side of their agreement while still encouraging management to come back to the table with a serious offer.
If FAs are unable to secure a deal with management and follow through with a strike, they won’t be able to shut the airline down entirely, rather they will have to stage strikes in pieces. This will still cause a massive disruption to American’s operation and travelers will face cancelled flights and enhanced delays from fewer available FAs moving around the world to operate their next flight.
While a strike could come at a “good time” given that it’s after Labor Day and not directly around major holiday periods, The next two months can have particularly challenging weather at American’s hubs in Miami and Dallas as hurricane season will be in full swing.
But in all likelihood management will structure a deal averting an American Airlines strike by flight attendants.
Nearly every American Airlines flight attendant is mad about their compensation package, and is demanding a new contract. Given the airlines recent track record of capitulation, the FA work action vote is a shrewd one. Their fellow compatriots at United may get a better deal by going after American. If this happens as it did for the pilots, the United FAs might get a further raise for American FAs who will demand a match to the best available contract terms. This exact scenario occurred in the pilots labor group a the two respective airlines earlier this year. More than anything else, I am shocked that 99.5% of more than 25,000 people can agree on anything at all right now, that’s impressive in and of itself.
What do you think? Will the strike ever materialize? Will United inadvertently help American renegotiate their contract as they did with the pilots?