The flight attendants, represented by various unions and across 24 airlines, are taking part in what has been dubbed “World Flight Attendance Day of Action” with airports in the UK and Guam also affected.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) called the protest “historic” in a news release.
The union said 100,000 flight attendants are currently in contract negotiations. The effort came about due to their working conditions and pay having been “eroded” by operational issues and the rising cost of living after the pandemic.
They are arguing that airlines can afford fair deals and are flying more than ever before, so flight attendants are demanding a “fair share of the profits” for their hard work.
Pilots from major airlines have successfully been able to receive new labour deals, including pay rises, according to Reuters.
The AFA also said that the importance of flight attendants’ work has recently been recognised in horrific incidents such as Japan Airlines Flight 516 or Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, yet the attendants do “life-saving work every day”, from medical emergencies, de-escalating conflict to fire flighting, the release said.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (AFPA), another union involved, said on X that “A landmark collective representing the largest number of flight attendants in the history of aviation will unite to demand better pay and working conditions for flight attendants everywhere, with informational pickets in more than 30 cities.”
Today, a landmark collective representing the largest number of #FlightAttendants in the history of aviation will unite to demand better pay and working conditions for Flight Attendants everywhere with informational pickets in more than 30 cities. See you there, @TWULocal579 ! https://t.co/nnBYDTDJlF
— Association of Professional Flight Attendants (@APFAunity) February 13, 2024
The protesters are also seeking retirement security, flexibility and the end of “legacy sexism” that has devalued their jobs for years.
“Like every other worker around the world, we need to go to work to live, not just live to work,” the event description said.
They also added that more than two-thirds of flight attendants from major airlines in the US are currently in contract negotiations surrounding their demands.
It has been a long-standing practice that flight attendants are pot paid until those airplane doors are shut, pointed out NPR.
“We have a lot of time in our days that we are unpaid,” says Julie Hedrick, a flight attendant for American Airlines and president of the APFA. “It’s our most chaotic and the hardest time in our day, and we can have four to five boardings per day.”
However, some airlines argue the contrary, such as Alaska Airlines, who pays their attendants for boarding time through a pay mechanism, or Delta, who gives the attendants half their hourly rate, according to the outlet.
Back in August 2023, American Airlines flight attendants represented by the AFPA voted a overwhelming 99.4 per cent to authorise a strike if they needed to.
“Our CEOs are taking millions in bonuses while we sit here without wage increases for five years. It’s time for that to change. It’s time for our flight attendants to get the contracts that they deserve,” Ms Hedrick said to NBCDFW.