Sad: American and Alaska Flight Attendants Live In Poverty and Experience Homelessness

by Anthony Losanno
Homeless Woman

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It’s no secret that flights are still jam packed and that airlines have been largely profitable. But not every airline is sharing the wealth like Delta did with the $1.4 billion in bonuses it paid in February. New hires at American Airlines are being issued “poverty verification letters” so that they may apply for government benefits and 9% of Alaska Airlines flight attendants have experienced homelessness in the past year. This is so unacceptable.

The actual letter AA gives new FAs when they move to NYC, Miami, Boston, Dallas etc.
byu/containment-failure inamericanairlines

The image above was shared on Reddit and it’s to be used by new employees so that they may apply for government programs like food stamps and subsidized healthcare. Paying someone $27,315 is not fair. This works out to $13.13 per hour if looking at it on a 40-hour work week (flight attendants are not paid like this and they do not receive wages until the aircraft door closes). The letter says that they’re compensated at a rate of $30.35, which may sound great on the surface, but is based on 900 hours for the year (if paid 40 hours per week for a year that equals 2,080 hours). In this case, American is expecting flight attendants to work for approximately $525 per week (again flight attendants do not work a “normal” nine to five, but this is for comparison purposes).

Alaska Plane

It’s no better at Alaska Airlines. A new survey conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) revealed some troubling statistics:

  • 59% do not have access to an extra $500 per month if needed
  • 71% do not have a three-month emergency fund
  • 25% overdraw their checking accounts more than three times a year
  • 9% experienced homelessness in the past year where they lived out of their cars or in shelters
  • 10% live with family or their parents
  • 43% have roommates

These statistics are a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle of a flight attendant that was once portrayed.

AFA Alaska President, Jeffrey Peterson, said:

While Alaska Airlines executives reward themselves with millions in bonuses, frontline Flight Attendants literally have to choose between buying groceries and paying their bills. By dragging out contract negotiations, management is harming Flight Attendants. Enough delay. We demand a fair contract now. The time has come for management to reach an agreement or face CHAOS™.”

Anthony’s Take: Some say that being a flight attendant is an easy job. I disagree. You’re spending hours standing, serving passengers, and dealing with all of their nonsense. Plus, there is always the chance of an emergency and the quick action that is needed to handle those situations. Flight attendants deserve a living wage. They should not need government assistance or to fear homelessness. This is wrong on so many levels.

(Image credits: Alaska Airlines and Arie Liona.)

(H/T: View from the Wing.)

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8 comments

Christian May 11, 2024 - 11:47 pm

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So many people are acting without any empathy about flight attendants and heap scorn on them. It’s nice to read that someone actually cares enough to say how awful the poverty of young FA’s really is. These are the people trying to keep passengers safe and happy while they’re under enormous financial strain. A little kindness to them seems a pretty small thanks but it’s better than nothing.

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Marc May 15, 2024 - 1:09 pm

It’s part of a larger narrative about companies being able to pay mostly entry level workers at near poverty level wages and get the US taxpayer to subsidize wages in the form of welfare/ snap benefits. Companies continue to get away with this because of their lobby efforts. All the above article does is showcase yet another industry that gets to go on the cheap with many of their employees, to the point of offer guidance on how to get better wages not from their employer but from the government.

https://www.sanders.senate.gov/press-releases/taxpayers-subsidize-poverty-wages-at-walmart-mcdonalds-other-large-corporations-gao-finds/

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Goose2705 May 15, 2024 - 1:21 pm

It’s not only poor wages for starts. After 40 years in the commercial airline industry, I have talked to any number of flight attendants who are working as long as possible to receive pensions they can survive on. Numerous flight attendants die in their hotel rooms while on active flight status! So much for unions being of assistance!

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Steve May 15, 2024 - 1:36 pm

I know this comment may be somewhat controversial in this forum, but if the pay sucks so bad, why take the job? People have agency to make whatever career decisions they like, and the market has dictated a going wage for their services because there are people willing to accept the rates these employers offer. I say if you don’t like the quality of life, go find another job. That’s what I have done throughout my adult life. At times I have taken jobs that pay a lower salary. During those times, my motivations transcended the amount of money I earned.

I totally agree with Christian that that all people, especially people in service industries deserve respect and courtesy.

I also agree with Marc that the system, as it is presently set up, subsidizes workers at poverty level wages. I personally think the welfare system is the problem, not the employers. Increase the welfare, government will respond by increasing taxes, people will work less, industry will respond by further cutting employee benefits… it’s all just air in a balloon.

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De Guatemala May 15, 2024 - 1:57 pm

How is “43% have roommates” troubling and sad? The same goes with the other comments except for living in cars and homelessness. You could add teachers, nurses, police, fire fighters, minor league athletes, musicians, actors, and hundreds of other new hire categories to the “underpaid and overworked” category.

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jeff May 15, 2024 - 7:51 pm

I second what Steve said above. In the current job market anyone unhappy with their current job certainly has many other opportunities. And is every job supposed to provide a “living wage”? Living where? By the way, I’ve heard that many people take flight attendant jobs just for the travel benefits. Don’t misunderstand me, I truly appreciate the job these folks do, and I especially recognize that their first responsibility is passenger safety. Thank you!

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jeff May 15, 2024 - 7:52 pm

I second what Steve said above. In the current job market anyone unhappy with their current job certainly has many other opportunities. And is every job supposed to provide a “living wage”? Living where? By the way, I’ve heard that many people take flight attendant jobs just for the travel benefits. Don’t misunderstand me, I truly appreciate the job these folks do, and I especially recognize that their first responsibility is passenger safety. Thank you!

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TJ Robinson May 16, 2024 - 5:20 pm

This used to be a job suited for young women who were unmarried and mostly stayed with family or roommates, when they met someone and got married they usually quit. I definitely think the airlines can do better such as paying on a performance basis. And having a daily rate that they get even if the plane is not in the air. They try to garner sympathy from the flying public, many of which are sick and tired of their attitudes, unprofessionalism, and outright laziness gossiping amongst themselves and playing on their phones . We see it first hand. I especially get tired of the worn out announcements that say we are here primarily for your safety, what does that actually mean in 2024? To most of us frequent flyers it means I’m not interested in getting you a drink or serving dinner just sit down and shut up or I will have you arrested. If the airline would root out the bad ones and take customers complaints seriously then I’m all for the good ones on getting a raise.

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