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What American Airlines Flight Attendants’ Recent Demonstration at Wall Street Really Showed Us

Updated: Mar 26

On Monday this week, a handful of American Airlines flight attendants picketed on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange to protest against American Airlines’ 2024 Investor Day. Subsequent media focus has offered the protests little coverage, but focussed solely on American Airlines’ corporate strategy. Meanwhile, it seems as if flight attendants themselves are losing faith in their union to get them a good deal.  

 

The headlines coming out of American’s 2024 Investor Day from major news outlets focussed solely on the carrier’s corporate strategy, ignoring the crowds of disgruntled employees outside 

 

Bloomberg reported on American Airlines’ desire for more credit card revenue from partners Citi and Barclays. CNBC in one article discussed American’s plan to increase revenue from their loyalty program and in another referenced the carrier’s orders for 260 new aircraft from Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer, with an additional plan for a larger first class.  

 

The Investor Day was clearly a success for AA’s board, despite the company being stuck in a longrunning stand-off with its staff in a dispute over pay.  

 

CEO Robert Isom said in a statement: "I'm incredibly proud of the work we have done over the past two years to build an American that is stronger, more focused, and well-positioned to realize our full potential.” 

 

He added that the Fort Worth based company "is positioned to deliver a reliable operation for customers while generating durable earnings over the long term." 


American Airlines flight attendants have been in fruitless contract negotiations with the carrier since authorizing strike action back in August 2023.

Meanwhile, media have offered very little coverage of the stunt by AA flight attendants outside the NYSE, save for a 14 second clip on Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA.  

 

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union which represents over 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants, first announced their planned protest on their website on Sunday 3 March – the day before the Investor Day. 

 

The internal message sent by APFA to flight attendants.

Prior to this, news of the planned Wall Street protest had been leaked on Saturday, appearing in an article by View From The Wing. The aviation blog had obtained an internal messgae from APFA leadership to its due-paying flight attendants (pictured below). APFA had clealry wanted the protest to remain secret,  urging flight attendants to only invite others “privately” and “not post on social media.” 


APFA’s subsequent statement on Sunday claimed that flight attendants would picket during the Investor Day “while languishing under wages negotiated in 2014.”  

 

Paul Hartshorn Jr., APFA’s media contact, further wrote: “CEO Robert Isom and American Airlines’ senior leadership continue to disrespect 27,000 Flight Attendants as they reward themselves with bonuses and incentives.” 

 

The message also claimed that flight attendants would be picketing “to educate investors that American Airlines is still waging labor war against its largest unionized workgroup.” 

 

Sadly, these protests are having little effect on grueling contract negotiations. APFA is still waiting on a response from the National Mediation Board (NMB) to be realsed into a 30-day cooling-off period pre-strike, as per the Railway Act. But if APFA’s attempt at this back in November 2023 is any example to go by, it is unlikely their request will be accepted by the NMB. 

 

APFA insists that American has “thus far refused to make the improvements to wages and quality of life in the way that flight attendants need to see,” which has in turn driven them to ask for release from mediated negotiations to move toward a strike. 

 

Last September, American proposed a new contract to its 27,000 flight attendants, claiming the offer was industry-leading. However, inflight workers said it fell short. Since, no progress in negotiations has been made, but hostility has only increased.  

 

On the day of the protest, only a fraction of APFA’s 27,000 flight attendants turned up to the Wall Street picket. An image on APFA’s website suggests there must have been less than 100 altogether. That’s a turnout of less than 0.004%.  


Images from the Wall Street protest and a distinct lack of coverage suggets only a handful of AA flight attendants turned up to picket on Monday.

The lacklustre protest on Monday preceded the deadline for APFA’s National Officer run-off elections on Wednesday, 6 March. Run-off elections across the board followed an unsuccessful first round due to an all-time low voter turnout.  

 

Low voter turnouts and low protest attendance begs the question: are American Airlines flight attendants losing faith in their union? Events over the past month only point further to that conclusion. 

 

But what next in American Airlines flight attendants’ ongoing labor saga? Next week, on March 13, APFA’s negotiating committee is set to meet with the NMB to address their impasse with American Airlines management as well as their own desire to be released into the 30-day cooling-off period before striking. 

 

APFA have further stated: "we will continue to escalate our fight to the highest levels, including the White House.” 

 

New groups of uninonized flight attendants are voting to authorize strike action every week across North America. Most recently, Omni Air flight attendants voted to authorize a strike, while earlier in the month Alaska Airlines flight attendants authorized strike action for the first time in 15 years, and Air Wisconsin flight attendants joined the strike-train at the end of January. 

 

In spite of union efforts, however, Delta Air Lines flight attendants – the only group of flight attendants at a major US carrier that are not unionized – are paid by far the best, earning on average $5,400 more than their peers at United Airlines and American. Delta’s flight attendants also had their wages raised twice in the past two years, first in May 2022 and then a further 5% increase in April 2023. 

 

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