United, Flight Attendant Union Strike Deal

It is not even officially a “tentative agreement” yet, much less ratified and approved by the rank-and-file members. But United Airlines and its flight attendants union took a major step forward today, announcing an agreement in principle for a new, unified contract. This has been a long time coming – more than six years since the merger – and, if eventually approved, represents a massive win for new CEO Oscar Munoz, one which he very much needed to satisfy investors, customers and employees.

Both sides issued statements celebrating the news. From the company (in part):

“Today’s agreement honors the invaluable role that our flight attendants contribute to United’s success and brings us closer than ever to uniting them under a single contract,” said United President and Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz. “It’s been a long journey and I’m grateful to our outstanding flight attendants – the most talented and professional inflight team anywhere in the world – for all they do to keep our customers safe and comfortable.”

The Union was more business in its announcement, simply noting that final language is being revised this weekend and that the Joint Master Executive Council representing the local union shop presidents will meet Monday and Tuesday next week to review and hopefully approve the plan. From there it will be sent to the full membership for a ratification vote. Assuming it passes integration and other changes will follow.

There is still work left to be done and we’ve seen in the recent past how a flight attendant union can derail a contract even after the tentative agreement is reached and it is obviously in their bet interests to approve it. This one is harder to read in that context, knowing just how long the battle has waged and how fiercely each side defended its approach to work rules and other aspects of the deal. But the fact that the three FA unions have finally agreed, at least at the top level, is a huge step forward. Buy-in from the company on top of that is tremendous. Just needs a ratification now.

Also worth noting, the “new” union trying to take over the negotiations will remain useless.

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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.