Flight attendants across the United States are pushing for a change in the way they are paid, as they argue that the demands on their time and energy have increased significantly due to fuller flights and leaner staffing. Currently, most airlines do not pay flight attendants until the aircraft doors are closed, leaving them with a significant amount of unpaid time spent in airports and preparing for flights. As contract negotiations continue at several airlines, flight attendants will be picketing at dozens of airports to bring attention to their demand for changes in pay and other issues.
Julie Hedrick, a flight attendant for American Airlines and president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, estimates that flight attendants have as much as five or six hours of unpaid time per day, which includes waiting in airports and boarding passengers. Airlines argue that this time on the ground is compensated, but flight attendants, represented by unions such as the Association of Flight Attendants, are pushing for changes to reflect the increased demands and stress of the job.
One major airline, Delta, has already begun paying its flight attendants for boarding time, and American Airlines and its flight attendants’ union have agreed to boarding pay similar to Delta’s. However, the union is still advocating for other issues, including a 33% raise. While flight attendants hope to draw attention to their concerns through picketing, they are currently unable to strike without permission from the federal government. Despite this obstacle, negotiations continue as airlines seek to reach agreements with flight attendants.