Seems Fair: Union for United Airlines’ Flight Attendants Wants Them Paid On the Ground

by Anthony Losanno
United Flight Attendants

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US flight attendants are generally only paid from the moment the boarding door closes until it opens. While they’re waiting for a flight, helping passengers get settled, and waiting for those flyers to get off the plane, they’re mostly not earning anything. The union representing United Airlines’ flight attendants wants this to change as part of its current contract negotiations and I agree with them.

This ask is nothing new and the current pay structure benefits senior flight attendants more than junior ones as those who have been with the airline longer tend to work longhaul flights where they amass more hours in the air and fly a single segment in a day. Newer hires might fly multiple short flights in a day with the periods in between flights and all of those boarding and deplaning times unpaid.

Delta Air Lines and Skywest pay their flight attendants 50% of their normal hourly rate during boarding, but not for flight briefings or other time spent between flights. American Airlines is currently negotiating a similar offer of 50% pay during boarding while it works on an agreement with its own flight attendants. The union representing United flight attendants wants to take this one step further and to get them “Ground Time Pay,” which means they’ll get paid for any time spent on the ground.

United Flight Attendant

This seems fair to me and what should have already be done. Flight attendants are expected to work (assisting passengers find seats, serving beverages, and getting the cabin ready) without being paid. I can’t think of other industries that operate in this manner. When you’re at work, you should be compensated.

As View from the Wing reports:

The AFA-CWA union wants full increases in flight pay and half pay for all time on the ground. The total value of the pay package is really what they’re bargaining over, and then slicing it out as flight pay and ground pay. More ground pay means less flight pay, and vice versa.”

United flight attendants’ union has been negotiating their contracts since January 2022 and if you ask many flight attendants this process has taken too long and is not moving the way they would like.

Anthony’s Take: United should agree to pay its flight attendants from when they show for work until they head home. The airlines have been raking in the cash and should be willing to fairly compensate their employees regardless of current conditions.

(Image Credits: United Airlines.)

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derek December 10, 2023 - 10:29 am

I see this as unfair. They should be paid 100% pay from when they are told to be present before departure. However, seniority pay should be cut substantially so that senior FAs earn only a slight premium over new hires, maybe 20%. Senior FAs do not necessarily give better service or seat passengers faster.

John Dogas December 10, 2023 - 2:18 pm

It is fair to be paid from the moment you are required to be somewhere for work. If you are required to be at the airport an hour before the flight, that’s when the pay should start. The problem with flight attendant pay is that most flight attendants of the big 3 are pretty bad. It’s not like europe where they hire young nice looking women under 30 who then move on to other jobs after 35 that are suited to raising a family. The U.S. airlines hire the worst of the worst demographically and these stay on 30-40 years. Each year the flight attendant gets worse as the are in a job that’s not meant to be a life time career.

Airlines should pay flight attendants well but the seniority thing is a problem. There should be no literal or figurative seniors. If airline management was competent they would fire all flight attendants after 10 years of service to keep things fresh. The next time they go bankrupt or some crisis allows renegotiation of contracts, they need to do this.

Mike December 10, 2023 - 2:33 pm

What industry other than this industry (horrible industry and I would NEVER work for any airline) do people get paid like this? Seriously? It’s alarming that these airlines are only paying their flight attendants when the door is closed. I’m sure that make sense for these airlines, but this would never FLY in any other industry know to man today. No wonder there is a toxic and hated culture at these airlines. Money talks and people need to be paid when they check in. I’m in FULL support of flight attendants getting paid as soon as they check in. Just another reason to fly Singapore Airlines or Emirates!


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