What you don’t know about the life of a flight attendant
Throughout your life, when you have boarded an airplane, you have been greeted by a flight attendant.
They are usually smiling and go out of their way to make you feel welcome when you get on the plane. They also help you get to your seat, put your luggage in its place, and generally manage the mood of hundreds of people who are already irritable at the thought of trying to retreat into tiny personal space.
They do it all for free. Because until the plane closes, the flight attendants don’t get paid.
Although it sounds like some kind of wildly illegal practice, it is not. In fact, it’s the industry standard and has been for decades, along with a handful of other practices that seem archaic in an industry as crucial as airline travel.
“Boarding is our busiest time. We observe everything from potential security threats, the size of emergency bags (medical, fire), resolving seat issues, while trying to close the door for the on-time departure,” one flight veteran said. attendant who wishes to remain anonymous told TheStreet in a phone interview.
She then went into more detail about her experiences in the industry over the past 19 years.
“I’ve slept in more airports than I can count,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of money on hotels and Ubers, none of which are reimbursed. If we don’t live on base, we’re not guaranteed a seat on our flights to or from the airports where we need to be to work.”
She also explained that many airlines also use a strict points system to report delays and absences called “incidents”. Once an employee has accrued a certain amount, they are automatically terminated.
“Sick calls are an event and that included sick leave. I had an event to have a baby,” she said. “If I had to take sick leave because I needed chemo, I would take one. I didn’t have any when my mum died, but I had to provide proof of her death [to avoid that].”
Why Delta is changing its policies
People became aware of unpaid boarding practices after a recent memo from Delta (DAL) – Get the report from Delta Air Lines, Inc. stating that it will pay flight attendants during the boarding process starting June 2. It is the first American airline to make this gesture.
While it may seem like Delta chose to make the decision to align with best practices, it’s more likely that the change was a direct result of a tireless union campaign that fought tooth and nail for it. .
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the Delta Flight Attendants Association (AFA), a flight attendant union founded in 1945, played a major role in promoting change in boarding policy. With more than 50,000 members today, the organization began campaigning in 2019 for Delta to make changes to policies at all levels, including wages, benefits, working conditions and job sharing. profits.
According to the organization, Delta pays “100 million less a year” than airlines like United. This lines up with what the flight attendant we spoke to told us, saying she was long past raises and, even so, “might be eligible for food stamps.”
While the AFA victory is a milestone, it is also tenuous.
“They announced it today, and they can also choose to rescind this policy at any time…unless we have a contract that locks it in,” the AFA said in a post on its website. made on April 25. “Let’s renew our campaign so we can get a contract that locks in all of these benefits AND ensures we have a say in our pay, benefits and working conditions every day at Delta.
Will the industry follow Delta’s lead?
One thing stands in the way of this policy’s potential for change in the airline industry: its effect on customers.
Paying flight attendants when boarding would result in a higher cost to the consumer, potentially affecting everything from the cost of flights to items purchased on the plane. This explains why the fine print of Delta’s new policy shows that pay for boarding time is only half the hourly rate of inflight pay.
In an industry already struggling to rebound from pandemic losses, these steps can be financially difficult to take. But flight attendants have long been stressed to the breaking point between insufficient pay, overly strict rules and worsening passenger behavior in recent years.
“There was an increase in aggressive behavior when Trump became president,” the stewardess told TheStreet. “People had this audacity [with the flight attendants] they never had before, because Trump made it OK.”
Near 80% of flight attendants are womenwhich also points to an unfortunate similarity to the problem of the gender pay gap that women have been battling for decades.
“If I need compliance from a passenger, he’s much more likely to comply if a male pilot makes an announcement than if I ask him for something,” the stewardess said.