On the 2nd of June, Delta Airlines became the first and only major U.S.airline
to start paying their cabin crew for boarding. Now crew from other airlines, including as American and Southwest, are pushing to be similarly compensated and make this a new industry norm.
The current industry standards state that cabin crew only get paid once the aircraft has completed boarding. This has proved problematic especially as boarding can be one of the busiest times for cabin crew and can take up to an hour of labor-intensive work. In an interview with Business Insider this week a Delta flight attendant described the boarding process as the “hardest part of the job.”
This is clear when you break down all the steps taken to ensure that the flight is boarded efficiently. Generally, the boarding process involves coordinating with gate agents; checking each passenger as they arrive on the plane; and ensuring that those sitting in an emergency exit row are aware of their responsibilities. On top of welcoming passengers and meeting any requests. Essentially, anything to do with seats and service during boarding is the responsibility of the cabin crew.
Furthermore, during the pandemic, crew members were responsible for maintaining mask protocols. As USTN previously reported, this often left crew members dealing with difficult passengers and in some cases being threatened with physical and verbal violence. Dealing with these challenging passengers would often result in delays and in some cases cancellations. Subsequently, crew would spend even more time on the tarmac, still without being paid. This is something that Delta chose to address when reviewing crew contracts this year.
In a first for the big four carriers, Delta Airlines have said that they will start paying their crew during the boarding process to compensate for their high workload during this time. The company has outlined that they will pay 50% of the hourly rate to flight attendants during boarding. This begins 40 minutes from departure, 45 minutes for a narrow-bodied domestic flight, and 50 minutes for an international trip.
The announcement has been overwhelmingly welcomed by cabin crew, many of whom have experienced difficult episodes during boarding. One flight attendant described it as a “massive step for flight attendants”. They stated that boarding can be both mentally and physically intensive, explaining that it takes “a lot of patience, time and labor-intensive work.”
Although a massive win for Delta Airlines’ crew, the jury is still out on whether other airlines will take up the new policy. Flight attendants across the US at airlines such as American and Southwest, have asked management to follow Delta in paying for boarding. However, it remains to be seen whether this trend will catch on.