A look at American’s offer to flight attendants

As part of yesterday’s announcement that American Airlines plans to lay off a whole bunch of employees they also issued new offer sheets to their main unions, stating their opening negotiating position for the collective bargaining contracts. The offer to flight attendants is open to the public for review and it makes for an interesting read. I’d be pretty upset as a flight attendant reading it over.

One of the most talked about bits I’ve seen is the termination of the international route pay scale. Those routes will still draw a minor additional pay bump ($1-3/hour) but not the fully separate pay scale like they do today. I can see this upsetting the FAs but I’m not so sure it is justified. The long-haul flights seem to be the better gigs, with less overall work and they’re easier to max out a monthly schedule without actually flying so many days. Those are real benefits of those trips; getting paid extra to work them seems way too favorable towards the FAs. But I can certainly see why they’re going to be upset with the change. The proposal also cuts the incremental pay that is normally accrued over 70 hours per month.

Beyond that, there are some significant changes to the work minimums that are more serious as I see it. In order to qualify for medical coverage and vacation accrual the flight attendants would be required to work 540 hours annually rather than the current 420. That’s a pretty big jump. It also increases the total minimum number of hours which must be worked annually to remain employed to 200.

The proposed rules would also significantly change the duty hours for flight attendants, making their work days longer, the number of potential hours per month higher and then guaranteed minimum time off between trips lower. Rather than being guaranteed five breaks of two days in a month they’ll get the same 10 days guaranteed, but only in one day increments. Again, all changes that are certainly going to upset the flight attendants.

The company also intends to change the staffing level assignment decisions and hotel choice policies. In both cases the policy will shift from "mutually acceptable" to company-mandated, with input from the union considered. Not a guarantee of downgrades here, but certainly there are some changes the company has in mind where there could be cuts.

Finally, the company plans to cut the pension plan, replacing it with a 401(k). They plan to cut healthcare for retirees over 65, replacing it with a Medicare supplement. The will cut life insurance for all retirees.

All these cuts and yet, when I review the term sheet, nothing in it actually seems all that unreasonable. Yes, the terms are worse than the current contract in many ways. Other than the profit sharing plan there actually isn’t really much in the way of improvements for the FAs in the offer. But it just doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me. Yeah, I know that there are many more hours worked beyond the block time. I understand commuting to the crew base. I get all of that. The numbers still just don’t seem that bad to me. Such is life, I suppose.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.