American Airlines’ Junior Flight Attendants Are Fuming

Filed Under: American

American Airlines’ junior flight attendants are livid at their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).

There’s not much flying to be done in May

Airlines have greatly reduced their flight schedules for the coming months, and they obviously have way more employees than they need. However, due to US government aid, they can’t furlough employees.

While some employees have accepted a partially paid voluntarily leave of absence or early out, there are still way more employees than are needed.

In the case of flight attendants, the reality is that they’re all going to be paid the minimum monthly hours they’d usually get for flying, regardless of whether they fly or not.

Since it’s highly unlikely that any American Airlines flight attendants will be working more than the guaranteed minimum number of hours, flight attendants will get paid the same whether they work a fairly full schedule, or don’t work at all.

American will only operate 20-25% of flights in May 2020

Only American’s most junior flight attendants will fly in May

The APFA has shared their plan for how May bidding will work for American Airlines flight attendants. As it’s explained:

  • Total scheduled flying hours for May 2020 will be approximately 20-25% of the scheduled flying hours for May 2019
  • The system used for bidding won’t function if all flight attendants participate, because there will be more flight attendants than flying hours/legal trips available (apparently this is a limitation of the system)
  • American Airlines approached the APFA to discuss a process for reducing the number of flight attendants bidding

The union leadership decided to process bidding in a way that has the most junior flight attendants required to bid, while senior flight attendants will get the month off completely.

For example, if a base has 400 flight attendants and only enough flying for 100 flight attendants (based on legal lines), the 100 most junior flight attendants will be allowed to bid on trips.

Then normal seniority will be followed within those ranks, meaning that #301 will really be #1 seniority for the month (out of 100), while #400 will really be #100 for the month (out of 100).

The union acknowledges that flight attendants shared that they wanted to have the option of whether they had to bid or not. The union says they agree and have heard this feedback, but the technology currently in place doesn’t allow for an “opt-in” option (a claim some flight attendants are suspicious of). This means that they need to narrow down the pool of bidders in some other way.

Only American’s most junior flight attendants will work in May 2020

Junior flight attendants aren’t happy about this

Looking at the APFA Facebook group, you’ll see a lot of junior flight attendants expressing their frustration, like this one:

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!!!

Or this one:

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.

Or this one:

I’m not understanding how a senior person can sit at home with their guaranteed hours at top pay, decide to fly a trip and get FIRST pick of RF or UBL/TTS and it goes on TOP of their guarantee. While juniors fly the all the lines during a pandemic and keep getting “denied due to higher seniority” every TTS run.

Lmao y’all wild all the way out with this one. I’m dumbfounded to say the least.

Or this one (lol):

Will furloughs be handled in inverse seniority order too?

They’re not wrong, but…

I totally understand the frustration of junior American Airlines flight attendants. They’ll be doing all the work, while the senior flight attendants are sitting at home getting paid much more (since pay is connected to years of service).

However, I’m not sure there’s actually a decent alternative?

That’s to say that the US airline industry is strictly seniority based rather than merit based, and that’s kind of sad, because it’s also one of the reasons service has gotten so bad. That’s why you’ll often find American’s worst service on their most premium flights in first class.

The US airline industry is strictly seniority based… sadly

Given that everything is seniority based, how else would this really have played out? Sure, in theory they should give people an option to opt in or opt out, though in reality don’t you think everyone would just opt out?

“Hey, do you want to come to work in May, or not? You’ll be paid the same either way.”

I’m guessing just about everyone would say “no,” and then it would still be based on seniority, with the most junior flight attendants flying. I can understand how they’d at least feel like there’s more of a process then, though.

Bottom line

If you fly American Airlines in May, expect to only see American’s most junior flight attendants onboard. It does seem a bit silly that junior flight attendants are doing all the work, while senior flight attendants sit at home while earning more.

But I think that’s just how the US airline industry works, when your seniority number is all that matters?

(Tip of the hat to Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

  1. Lottery. If you can’t handle volunteers, it’s the only fair way in such circumstances.

  2. Seniority is generally how union labor works. If the junior flight attendants did not want to follow union rules, they should have not worked for a unionized carrier. I have no idea how Delta will be handling this situation. Regardless, no one should be expecting a monthlong bonus paid vacation when so many others are suffering.

  3. +1 The Nice Paul. A lottery system is the only way to do it. Of course, the senior FA’s will all start screaming in return saying they are the most vulnerable in age and should be allowed to stay home. There really is no perfect solution. Other than to decrease flights to only essential for now, decrease the number of flight attendants, and pay those willing to work increased wages for volunteering.

  4. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who complain about a job they chose.

    In every job newbs get shafted by veterans? What they thought they were special?

  5. This is the dirty truth of unions. They exist for the benefit of those at the top. Contract offers from management that are a good deal for 90% of the union are withheld because negotiators are the most senior who want more because they’ve exhausted all of their steps. Long-time problem employees are sheltered while giving the rest of the hard-working, dues-paying people further down the tree get lumped in with these low-performers.

    Unions have had their time. And for some industries, they still have a role to play (think high health/safety risk, potential for wage manipulation), but for the vast majority, the time has passed.

  6. I don’t pretend to know how any of the scheduling or bidding processes work but wouldn’t it make it equal to all if they just threw everyone’s name in a hat and randomly drew out and assigned the flights in that manner?

  7. This is similar to what is currently happening in Academic medicine.

    The current dirty secret is that if you walk into any “name brand” hospital, you will only see junior residents (doctors who just finished medical school). They will then skype or zoom with the attending physician (senior doctor who has finished residency) who is sheltering in place in their boomer mansion in the suburbs.

    Attending never actually see’s the patient (no risk of exposure), yet bills and gets a paycheck about 10x to what the resident is getting.

  8. I agree this sucks but at the same time, most senior FAs are over 60 years old and are probably considered high-risk for COVID-19.

  9. When times are good inequities aren’t in focus as much. When times are bad those same inequities jump to the forefront. Keep in mind those senior flight attendants were once junior flight attendants and many were furloughed after the 9/11 attacks. I knew one of those FAs. At least this time they are keeping you on the workforce through September 30.

  10. Old economy jobs, especially unionized ones, pay senior members more, based on the myth that they are more valuable based off their experience. New economy jobs base pay off of productivity, a far more accurate way to mirror actual value to the company.

  11. While DL FA’s are po’ed and now looking to unionize, AA’s FA union could fall apart. Wouldn’t that be a switch. All I know is that service on AA’s flight just got a lot better now that those old USAir witches won’t be working the flights in May.

  12. The biggest problem here is that they are allowing the non flying seniors, to pick up and add trips (by seniority order!), to their 70 hours of pay-for-not-working.
    So many top pay seniors will fly 30 hours and get paid for 100 at top pay, while the lowest paid juniors will fly 70 and get paid 70.
    Seniors could fly 30 hours and be paid $6800.
    Juniors flying 70 hours (more than twice as much) to make $2100.

  13. see, this is what i’ve never been all that hyped about unions. the unions don’t care for all their members – only the most senior ones.

  14. Only have the folks that work accrue seniority (un link seniority from the date of hire) . Everyone gets paid, but if you have to work, at least you can be slightly less senior…

  15. This is the problem with unions: seniority is everything while merit figures in very little, if at all. I get that many sectors of the economy are strong armed by unions but if you’re a business looking to deliver crap service and have discontent within the ranks, a union will be glad to help. Unions offer a lot of protections (like paid furloughs) and benefits (collective bargaining) but one has to wonder if those make up for the aspects of membership that seem less than fair and not necessarily in the customer’s best interests.

    That said, unless the union contract is a secret, everybody should have known that this is how a scenario like this would play out.

  16. “work” you say? these juniors who are “forced” to fly will not be doing much work since the service has been suspended because of the virus.

  17. These are the same Junior people who are always telling the Senior FA’s “Inspire or Retire”. It’s called Karma.

  18. But isn’t that what the senior flight attendants have earned by working all those years??? Juniors time will come, it’s all about paying your dues and putting in the time. Why do all younger people feel so entitled about everything all the time??

  19. Sorry but AA is the only airline that makes senior people serve on their reserve system while rewarding junior folks with a set schedule. They want tit both ways. Seniority is the name of the game in the airline industry…..except for AA flight attendants. These very junior workers believe that they have the right to waltz in and be afforded the same seniority a 40 year person has. Turn about is fair play.

  20. I have been a flight attendant since November 2019. I have to say I’ve been horrified at our last place customer service rating so as a junior flight attendant myself, I say LET’S ROCK THIS and show the senior flight attendants how it done!

  21. AA should get into the lawn care business. If FAs are paid but not working, come to my yard and mow the lawn with AA charging $20. Also pick up trash on the sidewalks, just keep 12 feet apart, double the recommendation.

  22. They could have created schedules that spread all trips out evenly. If it were 1 to 2 trips per schedule. Then the schedules could have been bid on and everyone guaranteed 70 hours for the month. While that currently violates the contract so does this ridiculous plan. This is called line bidding and has been done at AA before.
    Next month, senior flight attendants will get 70 hours free and then use their seniority for first dibs on any extra flying available. The junior people will fly all month earning their 70 hours and then will be outbid by senior people for extra hours. It’s WRONG.

  23. In response to Asburg,
    Not true, get your facts straight. In order to gain more hours, you have to fly your guarantee. In other words if you are being paid 75 hours with no trips and you pick up a trip worth 20 hours, you just worked a 20 hour trip for free as it doesn’t get added on to the 75, it contributes to it.

  24. I am a flight attendant of 43 years with AA.
    I am legacy AA. When I report for a trip I work, I smile, and serve. I actually enjoy the job. There is no easy solution to this “fluid situation” which has become a tsunami. Yes I would rather work a trip for my paycheck. As Lincoln said, ” You can make some of the people happy some of the time but you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.”
    Unions continue to exist because people don a wardrobe of victimhood. We are all adults here.
    To the individual that inquired about TTS/UBL. They stand for Trip Trade System and Unsuccessful Bidders List. These work in conjunction with the Preferential Bidding System which awards AA flight attendants trips.
    Now I will out myself: Colleen Korf based at LGA. Let the hate begin.

  25. Seniority is how it should work everywhere. You work your ass off and break your back for years, you deserve to be rewarded for being loyal to your company. These anti-union people are clueless. Would you rather not have job protection, and get your ass canned by any company at-will, or be passed over for extra paid holiday by some 6 month newbie hire? Heck no!

    In 10 years, you’ll reap the benefits, but instead inexperienced workers want everything the seniors get handed to them. That’s not how it works.

  26. Looks like this post made its way to whatever online swamp the AA senior mamas like to lie around in… they’re all coming in here to post why they’ve earned the right to be paid for doing nothing. Although the sad performances most of the senior crews provide when they ARE flying could barely be called “work” anyhow.

    Gi Gi and Denise are probably the type of crew members who sit on their jumpseats doing Sudoku or cross-stitching the whole flight, and then have the temerity to claim that their “career” is challenging, difficult work.

    I feel for the junior crews, but at least the handful of passengers flying AA these next few months will have friendlier, more attentive service while the sky dragons are all sitting at home playing Farmville with their grandchildren.

  27. At least for the month of May onboard AA you will have flight attendants that are energetic and enjoy their jobs; unlike the dinosaurs you usually see. I’m willing to bet the farm that if AA was still flying primo international routes, the flight attendant union would have had a different agreement. Senior flight attendants would have never allowed junior flight attendants to bid for and hold those premium trips. Overall airlines in the US need to reevaluate their strictly seniority based system. Seniority based structures are participation trophies. All those senior flight attendants that say they’ve earned the time off by ‘paying their dues.’ You did not earn it. The only thing that you earn from your employer is a paycheck for hours worked.
    Signed, a junior flight attendant.

  28. I am one of the “seniors”.
    I gave up $20,000.00 a year to save my flight attendant job and to save the airline.
    What have you given up?
    You chose this job.

  29. Seniority matters in many places and organizations. This isn’t such a difficult concept to understand.

  30. All I ask is please be considerate of your flight attendants you are sending into the hot spots. They should not be sent some where that people are bring quarantined when coming back and they are not being since they are flight attendants. The major hot spots should not be flown into. Your flight attendants lives are important also.

  31. I’m an AA f/a and the insane thing is they announced this literally hours before the deadline to apply for paid leave. So many people pulled their leaves which now absolutely guarantees furloughs of the most junior. Instead of making the process more fair by making all line holders work bare minimum trips and supplementing pay for the 70 hour threshold, or denying people the ability to get trips guaranteed on top of 70 plus picking up red flag pairings that pay time and a half, seniors could theoritacly work 70 hours but be paid for 140+. It’s insane. The union is finished after this. It has pitted the entire work force against each other. There is absolutely zero incentive to get any one to ever leave this job. Without any incentive, the crazy seniors who have $0 but 5,000 sq ft homes will never, ever prepare to leave. Complete joke of a union. AFA president is out at Congress and getting real results. Ours are sitting around figuring out how to do absolutely nothing and still keep their lifestyles at the expensive of every person in this company.

  32. Multiple systems in the US are broken on so many levels, as coronavirus is elucidating. The US airline industry is one of them. The f/a seniority system at airlines only benefits the senior f/as- not the airline, the customer, or the role in general. This is why so many of these seniors never retire- creating a nearly absurd inflight experience often times. I’m a former f/a for one of the US3 and know all about it. Like most of the people I went to initial training with, I quit in the years after 9/11.

    It would be great if the legacy airlines were nationalized and consolidated into one, allowing other new airlines to start in time out of the ashes. With this, the new national carrier could start fresh with an entirely new staff in all departments. A crew scheduling model like Emirates has (rotating seniority and bidding based on the month of the year, and defined service contracts) would be a great option for this new airline. I’m not advocating for the lack of labor protections the UAE has, however.

    Or, every f/a could be required to work so many hours a month with random schedules assigned (as some foreign airlines do). Same pay for all f/as unless you are a purser or language qualified (they would earn more), and pay should start at check-in, not when the door to the aircraft closes. If the airline can’t afford to pay that, then they can’t afford to operate. But seeing as the execs take millions, they funds obviously do exist.

    Coronavirus is teaching us that things are not working. Many of us knew this for some time now anyway. Time to think differently about things. The flight attendant job in America has largely been ruined in this era of late-stage capitalism. As the industry looks for a new way forward this needs to be looked at as well. The sheer animosity between passengers and airline personnel tells us this. And this post about only the junior f/as working during a pandemic does as well. It’s outrageous.

  33. 31yrs here at AA, I’ve worked many Christmas’s, Thanksgivings, Easters, missed birthdays, piano recitals, weekends, been through layoffs during the Gulf War and 911! I was straight reserve for 17yrs before I could hold a line month. After US/AA merger I had reserve shoved down my throat again so the juniors wouldn’t have to serve straight reserve! To all of those who call us hags and dragons, you should be ashamed! The seniors are the ones who do the job by procedure and don’t skimp on service! At least you won’t see me constantly on my phone, watching a movie in my jumpseat or on FB while I’m at work! Sorry, but I’ve experienced more lazy and entitled juniors then ever in my career!

  34. Ms. Korf, thank you for your smile, and your service! I am former NWA cabin crew, flew for only 3 years. I worked with some women who started with TWA and Pan Am in the 60’s. One lovely lady told me one day during trash pickup, I’ve gone from white gloves, to rubber gloves!
    The glamour is mostly gone with American carriers, but the drive to have a safe and fun flight has not been lost!
    I flew UA recently IAH-DEN, on the Dreamliner. This flight continued to Tokyo after DEN. I was in Biz/Domestic First. As I approached the boarding door L2 I’m sure, the young male fa there was leaning against the service center counter one hand in his pocket staring at his phone! He barely looked up and acknowledged me. Of course being old school, I was appalled.
    I had a problem with my video monitor, wouldn’t turn on, when I tried to get the attention of an older female fa she snapped at me and said: I’m boarding now you’re gonna have to wait! I never saw her again.
    I rarely fly now, but when I do it’s ALWAYS first or biz. I became an airline snob after working it cause I know how much better it is in an upgrade, or is it?
    UA, in my opinion has the worst service aloft.
    Keep the faith Ms. Korf! You are a legend!
    God Bless you!
    John M.

  35. ITS EASY

  36. For those saying the flying does not go on top of someone’s guarantee on a reserve month… you are wrong. When they pick up on their *Days Off* all of those hours go on top of the guarantee. If they decide to bid for trips on assigned reserve days (which they won’t), then all they will get is their per diem and nothing on top of their guarantee. Nobody that senior will be touched on reserve, so if they decide to pick up 15 hours on their days off, they will make bank for doing a fraction of anything.

  37. If the trips still consisted of premium transoceanic flying, we would have no headline. You flaunted your seniority to hold a line and avoid reserve.. what’s wrong now? Hold your d*mn line and fly to Kansas City like the rest of us. Oh wait, your recurrent only had widebodies? My recurrent day was a little longer… -.-

  38. The senior flight attendants are mostly monsters on any American carrier these days (not that I don’t have bad junior colleagues as well). I think it’s way past time for a mandatory retirement age, some of these seniors can barely lift their own bag, let alone drag a passenger off a burning aircraft. It’s not safe to have them on the aircraft and their victim mentality that they take out on the passengers, coworkers, and company is so toxic.

  39. Seniority based system (which mostly implemented in the USA) is the perfect receipt for employee complacency. There is not reward to be a better employee.
    They should have a credit score type of system. The better employees they are, the better Conditions they get.

  40. I am definitely considered one of the junior flight attendants, working for envoy doing only domestic flights. While I don’t make a lot of money, hell I barely pull 23000 a year if even that, but at the same time I chose this job because I love being a flight attendant. If I’m working my butt off while somebody else is sitting at home, honestly that’s fine by me. I live 15 minutes from my airport and unless I’m working I’m a homebody anyway since I barely can make my bills, so all I say is. Give me them flights! Lol

  41. Junior AA flight attendant here. Other union airlines spread the flying out equally so every flight attendant had to fly something. Absolutely no reason this shouldn’t have happened here. They say its contract issues but it was contractual trips go from senior to junior. Now that it doesnt fit the senior people’s needs, they flip it. Absolutely disgusting.

  42. Just so the average reader doesn’t misconstrue “junior” Because of the age and seniority at most mainline carriers (particularly AA) a “jr” flight attendant has about average 25 years or less. So this is not “whiny millenials” as you may suspect; these are seasoned vets with time in as well.

    Many of the most senior FA’s honestly, aren’t even near the level of health they need just to function on an average day, let alone with a invisible enemy waiting to play havoc on the body. They were given a great option, take a year of 50% or a lump some of 50% of the year, collect your pension, your SS and leave with some dignity.

    Nope, they won’t do that, once this is over, and enough jr crew have gotten sick, and even died, they’ll come waltzing back on the property and act as though they own the joint and THEN have the nerve to call the lower seniority crews “entitled”.

    Well word to the wise, when you do come back, just do your job and spare the rest of us your crap, because after we make it through this NOBODY is gonna stand for your sanctimonius, entitled bs folks.

  43. Don’t worry seniors Susan’s, not all of us junior people are freaking out like the rest of the juniors. Myself and some others understand its all about seniority and it’ll be our time one day to reap its benefits. For right now I’ll put in my time, and be thankful that I at least still have a job. For everyone else, stop being so immature and entitled, you sound like whining babies. Call in sick if you’re so upset.

  44. Wow how nice. Let’s work the juniors to then furlough them in a few months. Surree let’s pay the highest earners 70h to stay home plus also be able to pick up extra trips and burn through the CARE Act money faster. Makes so much sense. Since seniority is now inverted keep it that way when furloughs happens and go top down 🙂

  45. Junior flight attendants – start a vote to oust the union. Be your own voice. Or opt to leave AA and work for an airline with non-union flight attendants. You do have choices. They might be ideal choices but we do not live in an ideal world. I have 50 years with an airline with non-union flight attendants – a choice I made over half a decade ago. Just think how much you would have in your savings if you had wisely invested all those union dues!! Last month I flew over 182 hours. Seniority is earned – not given.

  46. SENIORITY has it’s place.. HOWEVER in this instance, AA should divide the flying up in each base by the # of F/A’s, then let them bid on those trips using their seniority. If they wanat to give a trip away then if someone wants to work extra for extra pay so be it…

    Former pilot for 4 different airlines over a 42 year career…bankruptcy, furloughed, etc…

  47. I’ve worked both union and non-union jobs. Given the choice, I’ll choose the NON-union job every time.

    It’s not just the unions, but the union mindset of the employees which is problematic. Employees feel that they are entitled, that they ‘are owed’ something. Bull. Be thankful you have a job, PERIOD. When is the last time any one of you sincerely thanked your employer for the job, when you receive a paycheck, or any other thing that you are ‘owed’ as part of your contract? Unless you’re from Japan, the answer is probably never. Perhaps you should.

    These FAs are complaining that they still have jobs!?!?!? There’s at least 10 million recently-unemployed Americans right now who wish they had such problems in their life.

  48. Now that junior flight attendants will fly more maybe we will see better service and friendlier smiles at American once things go to normal?

  49. I am not airline anymore but have been around the Industry 40 years. Both Flight Attendants and Pilots in my family. Yes it goes by seniority. The FA’s that are e en 30 years were on reserve for over a decade. If you weren’t a speaker International flights did not exist.They were furloughed, they have been through so much more than Junior FA’s have. The ones that have been hired the past 10 years have had it much easier. They have not had it as hard as others before. So if they have to pay a price for a month or two, that is the way it goes. They still will get paid and have a job.

  50. While many people are commenting about merit based seniority I am confused.
    Are you suggesting that those with the highest scores on the annual HR review should be exempt from having to work rather than those with seniority?
    I can’t wait to fly on the flight with the worst of those scoring in customer service.

  51. As a current flight attendant, let me shed some light on this situation. I do not work for American- however my airline allows us to bid to not work for the month based on seniority OR bid for trips so American can do it too. Their bidding system is a bit archaic and definitely needs to be overhauled. The FAs that are sitting out the whole month voluntarily do not get paid the same as those that work. They get paid a portion of the minimum hours for a month. That’s an industry standard.

  52. Just delaying the inevitable here! October 1st comes there will be easily 45,000+ layoffs at AA!!

  53. It’s about time these junior fas earn their wings.
    Would they rather be furloughed like so many fas were after 9/11?
    It’s always been this way and they need to get over it. Senior fas earned their wings, the junior fas have so much to learn!
    Service has gotten so bad because these junior people sit down with their heads in their cellphone on every flight, they have no work ethic!
    Don’t know why they are complaining as the flights are empty.
    No One is forcing them to work, they can always quit!
    They will never understand what senior fas went through during strikes and 9/11.
    Juniors need to grow up and quit their whining or quit!!

  54. When the industry gets back on our feet remember where you are now. There is strength in numbers AFA-CWA

  55. As a somewhat senior at AA, I knew from day one I would get the bottom of the barrel when I came here. I’m not sure what they told these new hires?

  56. If the union negotiated anything that did not recognize the privilege of seniority, there would be an even bigger outcry. Having junior FAs work and senior FAs stay home also makes sense from a safety standpoint sense older people seem to be more vulnerable to Covid-19 and working with the public and not sheltering at home involves risk.

  57. “I’m not sure there’s actually a decent alternative?”

    How about vote the damn union out first chance they get?

  58. The Silver Lining to this is that if you fly those flights as a passenger the old crabby FA’s will not be along to grumble, refuse to actually provide service, and harass the poor juniors. Go Junior FA’s!

  59. Give those Senior FAs a break! They’ve been through these downturns multiple times and they’ve lost most if not all of their regular flying for months to come with the widebodies grounded. If those senior FAs were forced to hold lines next month junior FAs would probably not even get trips. Time to earn your wings new hires!

  60. Those senior FA’s won’t be laughing when the junior people decide to keep all the trips amongst themselves. I’ll be damned if I am going to drop a trip to a senior person getting 70 hours of free pay. We will take care of ourselves and they will be hard pressed to find any trips above 70 hours.

  61. *Employee of one of the big three here*

    Hey American Employees:
    You’re making a fool of yourselves. Everyone else is laughing at you.

    Should probably take this to your intranet.

  62. Unions : Why service we never be good on the US3

    How can management not see that a merit based system is pretty much the only way to improve service.

  63. In 1991 when working on the railroad they were reducing crew sizes from 3 men to 1. They had excess employees so they established a reserve board which would draw 75% of their pay and stay home. I had the seniority and bid and chose not to work and they junior guys were forced to work. When you have a union shop seniority is everything you either have it or you don’t. Pretty simple!

  64. Love your articles, Ben!

    7-year FA at American Airlines. I love my job (always have), and I definitely don’t feel like anyone owes me a single thing. Flying in May, whilst the seniors sit at home, would not bother me at all. Now, those who are on no-bid status being able to pick up on top of their guarantee and having first dibs on trips, is what I think most of us are outraged about. All those who volunteered to take the paid leave at 19 hours per month, are also probably pretty upset right now.

  65. On September 11,2001 I was just 3 months into my flight attendant career at AA and was furloughed immediately. 18 years later, as a senior in a low cost carrier, the situation is pretty different for me. I’d say I’m lucky to not have to face the possibility of furlough, and , maybe, have to start all over again. I have taken a paid leave of absence , which was offered to the vast majority of crew members at every base. And, as a matter of fact, most senior flight attendants took it as well. But my company was able to even accommodate probationers for the leave. I think they are lucky.
    In this industry, seniority is what rules our lives on the line.
    From my previous experience, I’d just say, if you still have a job now, count your blessings.

  66. This article is hilarious! Talk about discriminating and bias writing! You have managed to assemble some of the most hotheaded, know-it-all, ignorant posters online today. But, that’s your job, isn’t it? Round up the opinions of the most vulnerable. No passion involved here, because you don’t stir passion, you stir a murky brew of half truths and assumptions!

  67. A lot of opinions about unions from people who clearly don’t understand them or haven’t been in them. Yeah, seniority sucks for those at the bottom. But part of the reason Unions are fair is because everybody has at one point or another been at the bottom (as to whether you luck out with certain aspects while you are on the bottom is a different story altogether).
    Some people suggest a lottery—that would actually be unfair. Imagine if you put in 20 years of time and then are being put into a lottery for such a thing. Not to mention typically greater years of service means you are older and likely more at-risk to begin with.

  68. Flight attendants want all of the union benefits and protections except when it does not suit you. Your chronic discontent on display is why the American public is okay with the industry failing.

  69. DP says…
    All this talk about unions is absurd. You don’t start any job with top pay & top vacations….but that’s what these jr.’s want today. They want to work the best intl’ routes right out of training. They don’t want to serve reserve, even though it’s so much more palatable than in years past. They SIMPLY DON’T WANNA PAY THEIR DUES. And, no, folks, you won’t get better friendlier service in May. Their work ethic is HORRIFIC, for the most part. And, their attitudes, PATHETIC, in most cases.
    An obscene level of entitlement. Check out the whining on the above texts. You don’t like it here…..quit!! Oops, you won’t have to, because
    you will all be gone Oct. 1st.

  70. DP says…
    All these comments about unions are ridiculous. Does anyone start a job at top pay or top vacation allotment?
    Or, in this case best intl’ trips. Well, many of our Jr’s want & expect that.
    Such whiners….such horrific attitudes….& work ethic as well….in most cases. And, they don’t wanna do reserve, even though it’s much more palatable than ever before. It’s ALWAYS been about seniority…..we were all junior before as well. You gotta put in your time!! Stop complaining & whining.
    You don’t like it here, QUIT!! Go elsewhere, & no, we seniors will leave when we’re damn well ready. We’ve been through so much through the years….& you’re about to start as well come Oct. 1st……
    believe me! The writing is on the wall.

  71. Sorry…not feeling your pain as I have my own. Husband laid off last year I was sole earner. Now our Co has closed and no offer of unemployment or any income. So be thankful you are still working. I’ll go if you don’t want to, I’m a quick learner…

  72. It do not matter of al these comments they chose to work there if not they can go work at a QT but the point is they have a job still and have a job for now other airlines having problems to but the only air line not having this problem is southwest because i have researched on this but either way they are luck that they arent laid off yet and lets just all hope for the better

  73. So quit your job. You took a job that was part of a union. You appreciate the benefits from the union but now don’t want to abide by the seniority culture that exists. No different than any part of life. I can’t stand who is sitting in the white house. But he won the election, I chose to live in the US so I live with it until the next election and try to change it. No tears here for the junior flight attendants.

  74. I have to put this into perspective and give the other side of the story. I am an American Airlines flight attendant. I’m by no means senior. Legacy American Airlines didn’t hire from 2001 until 2013 so most of the flight attendants who we would consider “junior” were hired after 2013 and there is a large gap between the group of flight attendants who were hired prior to 911 and those hired since 2013. Not that technically a 2001 hire at a senior base wouldn’t still be relatively junior numbers wise, but in terms of what we’ve gone through in our careers versus what the younger flight attendants hired in the last seven years have gone through is miles apart. And- for all intents and purposes the noise you’re hearing is coming from the latter group. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no “division” of these two groups at American. There are many flight attendants of all seniority levels that are incredibly good and most of us are friends with other flight attendants of all seniority levels. I have junior friends and I consider their new blood to be vital to our airline. But many senior flight attendants knew a whole different career environment than what those who are hired today do. When I was hired we were on probation for eight months (where they can fire you if they don’t like your shoes, or not even have to give a reason). We were required to move across the country to a new base and live there. Now flight attendants can live where they want to live from day one and fly free to work in their base city. (We didn’t have passes for the first six months.) When I was hired we were required to schedule in-person quarterly performance and image evaluations by your manager where you had to drive to the airport unpaid on your day off, in full uniform, for your evaluation and weight check, and then complete an oral test (manual closed) and attend “Progressions”, a final training seminar in Dallas/ Ft Worth that gave them one last look at you before you passed probation. None of this exists today. Reserve was 6 days in a row, 24 hours a day ready reserve. Now we have RAPs, 12 hour shifts and get to bid for reserve trips. We didn’t have family leave. If you called in sick more than twice a year you were fast tracked to termination. When September 11th hit, many of today’s junior flight attendants were barely even born. Our work lives became hell. We were furloughed and brought back and furloughed again; and brought back a second time to different base cities than we lived before. And that’s if you didn’t lose your recall rights to come back all together. Our contract was gutted. Our pay and benefits were slashed by 33%. Our pensions were frozen. Our 401ks plummeted. We remained on reserve some of us going on 32 years. Needless to say we bore the brunt of the misfortunes of the last two decades and brought many positive changes for the new hires of today. Their work lives are much easier and much better because we fought to get back much of what was lost by what we have been through. So I’m not complaining about junior flight attendants. I love them. They bring youth and energy to our corp. But we deserve some reward for all our sacrifices that made this airline what it is today. Nobody intended for the bidding system limitations to adversely affect one seniority over the other and this is only a temporary situation. These flight attendants are guaranteed not to be furloughed or have their wages cut for at least the next six months largely because of this union’s efforts. They all will receive a full paycheck and full benefits. The fact is that the union was faced with a decision, and while a lottery may have seemed like the fair answer, there are many reasons such as those noted above that we do things by seniority, and the union made the right choice. I’m sorry for those that have to work. I love you and we’ll be right back to join you before you know it and I hope that something like this pandemic will never happen again.

  75. @Thankful Stew. Do you know can FA/s who took unpaid leave for April (NY based worried about COVID-19) claim unemployment?
    I’m hearing that only those who took the 3/6/12 month options can claim unemployment?

  76. Extra pay at this time should be for those at risk and flying extra hours. If you are over 60 you should be required to choose to work or retire.
    Junior FAs should put their union on notice. They should start a new union if the union they currently pay fails them.
    This is a time to be fair and not a time for seniors to take advantage of a crises.

  77. It makes sense to ask younger individuals without underlying health conditions to be the ones to work these flights. That is not the system they’ve put in place. In addition, they should receive some kind of hazard pay or bonus for working.

  78. “This is the dirty truth of unions. They exist for the benefit of those at the top. Contract offers from management that are a good deal for 90% of the union are withheld because negotiators are the most senior who want more because they’ve exhausted all of their steps. Long-time problem employees are sheltered while giving the rest of the hard-working, dues-paying people further down the tree get lumped in with these low-performers.

    Unions have had their time. And for some industries, they still have a role to play (think high health/safety risk, potential for wage manipulation), but for the vast majority, the time has passed.”

    Look at what has happened to the American workers since unions have been under attack. Wage Stagnation, Huge multiples of pay for executives vs the average worker, far less FTE vs Contract labor and the list goes on. When I hear people say that workers are better off without representation, I laugh at the absurdity of their logic. Corporations have FLEETS of lawyers, lobbyists, special interest membership groups and PAID FOR POLITICIANS. All the while, they tell workers that they do not need representation because they will treat them fairly, yes ok. All I can say is that the American workers needs to wake up and demand more representation. No, unions are far from perfect but it is far better than having NO VOICE. I can tell you this, every global company I have worked for consistently cut their American labor and will only touch their European labor only in dire emergencies. Why, because American workers have very little protection.

  79. Ok, so this happened because of the pandemic crisis. Unprecedented times. The entire flight attendant work group should work less hours. Thats only fair. Why could this not have been with the current technology?

    American Airlines says the technology won’t allow for that? I find that hard to believe. The bidding system cannot be reprogrammed? Really?

    Union busting 101: divide the work group and make them distrust and angry at the union. No matter what the solution, part of the work group is going to blame the union. They should be blaming someone else.

    So, it seems that the flight attendant union had to decide then: will it be junior flight attendants that work or the senior ones? In that case, seniority takes precedents.

    I am a 25+ year flight attendant that has worked for two major airlines. Like all flight attendants, I started at the bottom and worked my way up the seniority ranks. Let me tell you, I waded thru a bunch of shit over the years. Yes, the junior people get the crappy trips and are “on call”.

    I have gotten the 3:00am call to report to Newark Airport within 2 hours during a tornado watch. Yep, made it there to work the trip. I have reported to the airport all hours of the day. Sometimes I would leave to go to airport at 3:00am and sometimes I would get home at 3:00am because those are the flights I could hold at my seniority. Someone has to do the less attractive flights. I probably worked every major holiday for ten years straight. Missed plenty of weddings, birthdays and other celebrations. Reported to the airport in snow storms, blizzards, hurricanes etc. I accepted this a part of the job.

    Sure, I would hope that others would retire or move on so I could move up but never saw myself as entitled like some people today. When you take this job, you know that it will take a while to gain seniority. The job is not for everyone.

    All that being said, this should not have happened this way. From what I understand this was a solution for the upcoming month. Maybe by the next month, American can find someone that can reprogram their bidding system. One would think.

    Also, ageism is alive and well and you seem to enabling that Lucky.

  80. Interesting. Many airlines seem to be struggling right now, but hopefully they should be able to get back running after this virus without too much damage. Here’s something I watched that should definitely be considered:

  81. How about this: those flight attendants that fly have their hours added to their seniority, while those that do not simply have their seniority put on hold for the duration until they fly again? Of course this could lead to some of those flight attendants in the “bottom 100” gaining more seniority than those in the next 100, which that would mean that those would need to rotate into active duty and those that gain seniority rotate out every month, but that seems fair.

  82. Odd that you did not mention one time how much more lethal this pandemic is for the older flight attendants. That is not the first thing addressed?

  83. That’s how unions work, unfortunately. If you don’t like it, work in an industry that isn’t unionized. Otherwise, take the good with the bad.

  84. I think that those that don’t fly should have their seniority frozen.
    Junior flight attendants should consider forming their own union otherwise the old ones will rule. This doesn’t seem very democratic, but rather the old FAs taking advantage of the crises to get free money while they sit at home. The senior citizens should consider retiring and let the younger ones take the risk.

  85. Highest paid FA’s and senior pilots get the most money from the airline bailout, but most will get some or all of the $1200. Is that fair?
    Then while the airlines get tax payers money we still have to pay baggage fees, seat fees, etc. So when this is over they can start to use that money to continue stock buybacks.
    No matter what the airlines say and cry about, too bad. Deal with it. The rest of us are and will be suffering. And I for one am not rich and have to save money for when I have to travel.
    Airlines, just shut up about your petty problems. You got money to keep your employees till fall. What about all the other people who don’t get a fraction of what you got?
    Of course the airlines could take all the ‘profits ‘ and buy more airplanes from non American companies.
    Just don’t forget to say thanks to the U.S. taxpayers.

  86. If junior flight attendants stayed home their pay would be even worse because now your not even getting pier diem. I’m confused because if Senior staff worked and they stayed home you really would get even less. I would be upset if I had to stay home and knowing just min pay doesn’t cover my bills as is. Even still most flights are cancelled so you still aren’t working much. Be thankful that you aren’t laid off. And still have a job and your flight benefits.

  87. For those who don’t work at AA I understand why you may not understand why juniors are upset, so let’s make this extremely clear. Most juniors are not upset about having to work, or the fact that some FAs are sitting at home collecting a paycheck without having to work. That’s not a big deal. There are already provisions in the contract that allow for that (e.g. a leg of a trip cancels or you time out and someone else works the rest of your trip, or while you’re deadheading or non-revving you work the last leg of a trip for someone else so that they can go home… in all of these situations, the person who was originally scheduled to work the trip gets paid while not having to work.) Again not a big deal, FAs are used to that and accept it because it’s part of the contract. The real reason juniors are upset is because what the Union has decided for May is a complete contract violation, and the same seniors who are all in favor of this violation would be screaming bloody murder if the Union had done this say 2 months ago, when flying was still pretty “normal.” The contract says that trips are to be given in seniority order. It doesn’t say this is to be changed all of a sudden because there’s a pandemic, or for any other reason. Therefore the bidding for May should have been done as it always is… The most senior flight attendants bid on the trips and get the time, and whatever is left goes to those junior to them. Many of you may not realize that the contract actually stipulates this… If for some reason there wasn’t enough flying in a base for everyone not on Reserve, it would go in seniority order, and whoever was junior would get a no-line bid, which means they wouldn’t get any trips on their schedule and would just have to try to pick up trips during the month to make money. This is to protect the seniors’ hours and make sure they benefit from their seniority by getting first dibs on trips, as it should be. This should NOT be changed all of a sudden due to a virus or any other reason. Suppose it was summertime with a full international schedule when the virus hit, and the danger was only domestic and only domestic flights were going to be cut with the international schedule continuing… There is NO WAY seniors would be ok with the Union changing things so that juniors got first choice on all the international trips. They’d be screaming about how the contract and their seniority is being violated. They’ve screamed for years about seniority violations when the “cartel” members got lots of premium international trips gifted to them from other FAs, and some even collected money to start a lawsuit against the company for allowing this “violation.” But it’s ok to violate the contract now, just because you’re going to get the benefit this time? NO! It’s hypocritical and it’s wrong. The contract should be followed at ALL times, regardless of whom it benefits. And to add insult to injury, when it comes to the trip trade system, the seniors who sit at home will have first dibs on any open trips, and that pay goes on top of their May guarantee, whereas anyone working their ~75 hour line for the month has to work more than that to get paid more. The whole thing is just wrong.

    So to summarize, juniors are not upset about having to work. They’re mainly upset about:

    1) The contract being completely violated
    2) Seniors’ hypocrisy in supporting this violation
    3) The slap in the face on open time trips

    Clearly this situation is unprecedented and no matter what was decided it wouldn’t make everyone happy. However the contract should have been followed. At least then the decision would be justified, and whoever complained wouldn’t have a real “legal” reason to justify their complaints

  88. As a Flight Attendant with Delta Airlines for 12 years this post makes me laugh. Unions are great, right! NOT! At Delta we have been given the opportunity to take a leave of absence thus saving the company $$$$$ in payroll costs. The union at American and other airlines have guarantees that the company must pay to the flight attendants under their contract. And under the CARES act the airlines cannot involuntarily lay off employees for FAs. Good luck with those Union contracts.

  89. Slight correction to the above… When there’s not enough flying for all FAs not on Reserve, the junior FAs would get what’s called an “infeasible low line” and get pay and credit up to 70 hrs. However the principles above remain the same.

  90. @Trevor. The company said one month leaves for April are eligible for unemployment but I hear some people are filing for it anyway and possibly getting benefits. Will they have to pay it back? I don’t know,

  91. @Ttevor. Sorry, typo. I meant one that the company said the one month April leaves are not eligible for unemployment. I don’t know how it will be handled.

  92. Fly some high time while you can. Come September you’ll be in the cheese line. (Aka furloughed for all you entitled youngsters)

  93. Enforce a mandatory retirement age. If you’re a high risk group to do your job, you have no business doing that job in the first place. Plus, being a flight attendant is a very physically demanding job. Try having a heart attack onboard and see what happens if the entire crew is 70+, specially if you’re a heavy person. You die!!

  94. I withdrew my union membership today. Why pay the union if it doesn’t represent me or stay true to contract.

    I hope the same reversal happens in October. FAs who work in May should be kept by the company, and those feeling entitled or vulnerable should be furloughed in October.
    Other corporations furlough highest paid workers first.

  95. The Union lied to members, blaming the company for this. The union fails to mention, it decided this.

    The Union didn’t ask which employees needed zero lines for hardships… because seniority is more important than FAs who had cancer, or have asthma, heart conditions or other vulnerabilities to stay home. The Union is corrupt because the ones making decisions are holding seniority. Wake up everyone. Fight to change the union or leave it.

  96. Why would the company keep seniors in furloughs? Seniors are the weakest in health and most vulnerable to another pandemic. Pandemics will happen again. This is the new world we live in.

  97. Reading some of the comments from seniors is sickening- telling young flight attendants to work extra when seniors stay home safe And then have the nerve to tease young flight attendants they will be furloughed after. You people are sick! You only want the young ones in your union to take their money.

  98. [Comment removed]

    This is an extraordinary and disruptive moment in time. If you need additional emotional support, please visit for resources and 24/7 help.

  99. @Daniel: I hear what you are saying and you make some great points. The argument that “this is how it always has been” doesn’t work in a progressive society, nor does the oft-repeated “if you don’t like it, just quit” response. The US airline industry and the flight attendant job has been reduced to an absolute disgrace. The people who benefit from it, like the execs and way-too-senior flight attendants, are the poster children of the greed and selfishness that has ravaged the industry.

    However, if you are suicidal, please get some help first and deal with the job later. Call 911 of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Your life is the most important thing.

    I am a former flight attendant. I eventually quit for many of the same reasons you mentioned. It’s not the 1970s anymore. Lots of opportunities to travel that don’t involve the low-paid, high-stress BS that comes with the US flight attendant gig. Lots of people want the job because of what it used to be like or what they still imagine it will be like. Even now, it can be an interesting life experience for a while, but probably less so than ever. As a career it sucks at this point, and it has only gotten worse.
    People love to call millennials “entitled” as if it is simply an automatic response. History is proving the the most “entitled” generation to ever live are the American Baby Boomers. Just look at the state our country and the environment is in! That’s mostly all on them. They have gutted everything after enjoying so many benefits themselves. Pure greed, an undue belief in their exceptionalism, no regard for sustainability, or gratitude for what was given to them. A great book called: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Gibney explains it well and in detail, but the proof is all around us.
    Keep your head up, get some help, and quit! It’s too hard to get well in that environment. Also, evil thrives on the internet, and loves the OMAAT comments section. If you are not feeling good about life right now, stay away from the trolls on this site and others. They will never restore your faith in humanity, because they don’t possess it. Hang in there.

  100. Wait until Sept when AMERICAN fire’s 20 yr and less flight attendants because of 2 many flight/attendants. They will wish they could fly. We will have way too many flight attendants. So stop complaining and enjoy the job while it lasts.

  101. @Ben: I messaged you and Tiffany privately via e-mail a few days ago about this. Perhaps neither of you saw my note. It seems when you have suicidal readers commenting on you blog posts you should acknowledge and address that. Instead, you have just gone ahead with business as usual which is astonishing. You have said in the past you read all of the comments here so I’m not sure how you could ignore such a thing. Very cold and disappointing. Could you respond?

  102. @ Norris Lee — I’m just looking at your email now; while we do read every comment, email is a whole different ballgame, particularly over a holiday weekend. I appreciate that it so clearly comes from a place of caring and concern.

    As this person is not a “regular member” of the OMAAT community (they’ve only ever engaged on that one post, and did so under a variety of handles), and commented two days after the bulk of the discussion had taken place, we had no expectation that they would ever return to the blog to see any responses from us or others, and so emailed them directly.

    That seemed most appropriate to us under the circumstances, but perhaps a more public response would have looked better. We’re really all trying our best here.

  103. @Norris – It’s nice you care and went to the trouble of checking on someone who commented here. That said, not sure Ben and Tiffany owe anyone the details of something that was likely handled outside of the comments function here. Additionally, giving more attention to something like this has the potential to create more ideation beyond the first commenter. That’s why news media often have strict guidelines about how, when and what they report related to suicide.

  104. @Tiffany- Thank you for acknowledging the concerns. I recognize things are not always as they seem and I know you and Ben are doing your best. Generally, I find it obnoxious when extremely critical comments are left here, but this was a more serious situation.

    Given that there were over 100 comments on that particular post, including lengthy opinions on all sorts of things associated with it, I was a bit shocked to see the conversation go cold after a person mentioned trying to killing himself on the thread. Many people subscribe to the OMAAT follow-up comment notifications, so his posting was obviously seen by numerous readers. In fact, that’s how I noticed it myself.

    @Miranda- I had e-mailed Ben and Tiffany and hadn’t heard from back from them on this serious and time-sensitive issue. And yes, I was expecting a response of some kind. Quite honestly, this situation was not about “giving attention to”, but rather making sure a distressed person was being helped. Perhaps you missed that.

    I didn’t have a way to contact the commenter directly, only Ben and Tiffany did, so it was important for them to be aware of the situation, and I wanted some kind of confirmation that they were. I’m confident now they took care of it from their end after hearing from Tiffany.

    Further, you should know, many suicidal people who “cry for help” and are subsequently ignored, interpret that as a lack of concern by others, compounding their sense of hopelessness, and ultimately carry out the suicide. I was trying to help prevent such a situation. I did not feel I was “owed any details” for f***s sake! I’m not going by “news media guidelines” here, but rather by those of the mental health profession, and more importantly, of human decency!

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