Three separate unions representing flight attendants at major U.S. airlines are picketing and holding rallies at 30 airports on Tuesday as they push for new contracts and higher wages.
The flight attendants are increasingly frustrated that pilots won huge pay raises last year while they continue to work for wages that, in some cases, have not increased in several years.
They argue that they have not been rewarded for working through the pandemic and being responsible for the safety of passengers.
The unions are calling Tuesday’s protests a national day of action. It is not a strike.
Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to conduct legal strikes, which can be delayed or blocked by federal mediators, the president and Congress. Mediators have already turned down one request by flight attendants at American Airlines to begin a countdown to a strike; the union plans to ask again next month.
“We appreciate and respect our flight attendants’ right to picket and understand that is their way of telling us the importance of getting a contract done — and we hear them,” American Airlines said in a statement Tuesday.
Flight attendants remain the last group standing at the negotiation table with the Forth Worth, Texas-based airline. Pilots for American Airlinesagreement in August featuring big pay raises and bonuses. Soon after in December, American reached an agreement with roughly 15,000 passenger service agents, the Dallas Morning News reported at the time.
Tuesday’s protests were organized by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents crews at United Airlines and several other carriers; the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union of crews at American, and the Transport Workers Union, which represents crews at Southwest and other airlines.
United Airlines in a statement Tuesday said that its first negotiation session has been scheduled for March 19 by a federal mediator requested by the AFA. “We’re looking forward to working with AFA to narrow the issues so that we can continue to work toward an industry-leading agreement for our flight attendants,” the company said.
Alaska Airlines said that its leadership and the AFA are continuing to bargain and meet with a mediator, describing discussions as “productive,” in a statement Tuesday. “With six recently closed labor deals at the company and a tentative agreement reached in January for a new contract for our technicians, we’re hopeful to do the same for our flight attendants as soon as possible,” the airline said.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement issued Tuesday, “We reached an industry-leading Tentative Agreement with TWU 556 in October 2023 and are scheduled to meet next week with the union and the National Mediation Board to continue working toward an agreement that benefits our Flight Attendants and Southwest.”
Transport Workers Union Local 556, the union representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants,a proposed contract agreement by the airline in December.