After going without raises since 2019, members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants marched at 11 American Airlines bases nationwide, including their biggest hub at DFW Airport as well as in New York, Charlotte, N.C., Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
It’s one of the most important contract bids for flight attendants in years with the labor market rarely as favorable for workers and airlines struggling to increase flying amid a surge in demand from travelers.
“We need more flight attendants like we need more pilots,” said APFA vice president Larry Salas. “Flight attendants are doing more flying than they did before the pandemic and the company can’t hire flight attendants fast enough.”
Fort Worth-based American Airlines’ capacity for the first half of 2023 is still down about 3% from the pre-COVID year of 2019 and the number of flights is down 16% as the carrier has had to adjust flying by dropping cities and relying less on regional airlines, according to data from Cirium.
“Picketing events like the one taking place today aren’t out of the ordinary during contract negotiations and will have no impact on our operation,” said American Airlines spokesman Timothy Wetzel in a statement. “American remains committed to reaching a contract that’s good for our flight attendants and our airline. We continue to meet regularly with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, have made meaningful progress, and continue to make reaching a new agreement our highest priority.”
The flight attendant protests come amid a wave of airline labor unrest with pilots and flight attendants at every major airline in negotiations, including threats to strike from pilots at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.
Airline flight attendants say their job duties have changed since 2020 and those crew members powered through the COVID-19 pandemic to help an airline industry that was financially struggling.
In addition to pay hikes and more flexibility in making schedules, Salas said American Airlines flight attendants are pushing for pay during boarding, which is not how flight attendant wages are structured.
Union members also want improvements in accruing sick time and changes to absentee policies because they say employees are being penalized for calling in sick. “We are still in a COVID environment,” Salas said.
This article originally appeared on Dallas News