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Frontier Airlines Flight Attendants Furious Over New Schedules That Have Them Sleep At Home Each Night

Frontier Airlines is reorganizing its schedules so that planes do more out-and-back trips, instead of flying all over their system. That way, when a plane breaks down or there’s bad weather in a city, the effect is localized instead of creating delays and cancellations for them all over the country.

More than 90% of the time a plane will return to base at night under this plan, which is also great for overnight maintenance.

Last year was the second-worst U.S. airline for on-time operations so they need to do something, and this makes sense. But their flight attendants are furious about the change.

Normally you hear about grueling trips, where flight attendants complain they’re gone for too long. You might think not having to overnight in a hotel in a different city each day would be great – returning home at night and sleeping in your own bed.

However Frontier Airlines flight attendants are complaining about this.

  • They give up tax-free per diems when they’re on the road (per diems on one-day trips are tax-reportable because they aren’t traveling overnight away from home)

  • If they don’t actually live in the city where they’re “based” they’re stuck with having responsibility for lodging in that city. Instead of, say, commuting to Denver and being on the company dime from the moment they arrive to when they fly to their actual home they need to pay for lodging in Denver

  • And they have to commute to work (the airport) and back each day on their own dime, instead of commutes being on shuttles to and from a hotel arranged by their employer.

In other words, the problem for flight attendants is they’re being asked to transition to a job that’s more like what most other people have – live in the city where they report to work, and commute each day.

This makes sense for the airline but it’s a shift in lifestyle for flight attendants. The move will save the airline money not just from a more reliable operation but also on meals and lodging when they don’t have to put up their flight crews on the road. (It should also be good for pilot rest and therefore safety to have pilots spending the night in their own beds.)

Flight attendants union head Sara Nelson explains AFA-CWA’s formal complaint under the Railway Labor Act. The union says that “[t]he contract provides for a ‘variety of trips in each base'” although it doesn’t explain why different routings and destinations (rather than one day and multi-day) doesn’t accomplish that, and why reducing but not eliminating multi-day trips doesn’t either.

“This is a gross example of corporate greed,” said Sara Nelson, AFA International President. “Management’s turn plan is shifting corporate costs including hotel and transportation directly onto individual Flight Attendants. If Frontier wants to make these changes, they MUST negotiate to reflect the completely new business model.”

According to Frontier Airlines,

We are committed to safety and reliability. Last year we had excessive cancellations primarily as a result of air traffic control delays. In such instances, more passengers are negatively affected by delays and cancellations when aircraft are routed on multi-day trips versus out and back flying which significantly decreases downline impacts.
To better serve our customers we have reduced multi-day trips although we are still operating some for those crew members who prefer them. For the first two months of the year, we are number one in completion for the industry suggesting early results are encouraging.

None of this should be surprising to flight attendants who went to training at a truck stop off the freeway in Wyoming because it’s cheaper than Denver.

This article originally appeared on View From The Wing

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