American Airlines Flight Attendants Unable To Reach Agreement





American Airlines Flight Attendants Unable To Reach Agreement

By Mike Mitchell

January 24, 2010 - After eleven consecutive days of bargaining, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and American Airlines have not reached an agreement. The Federal Mediator overseeing the negotiations has directed the parties to resume lockdown negotiations for five days in Washington, DC at the National Mediation Board beginning on Saturday, February 27. 

"We have worked extremely hard and bargained in good faith over eleven days, but there has been no movement on key issues. After more than 100 bargaining sessions over the past twenty-one months, American remains intent on increasing the more than $2 billion in concessions the Flight Attendants have given up since 2003", said APFA President Laura Glading. "It's time for management to recognize the sacrifices made by Flight Attendants and for American to put proposals on the table that improve our wages, benefits and working conditions." 

If no agreement is reached during this second lockdown session, APFA will ask the National Mediation Board (NMB) to initiate a 30-day cooling-off period - the final step before employees can resort to job actions. "Flight Attendants are unified and determined "Glading stated, "we remain prepared to take the necessary steps to get a contract that our members will readily ratify."  

In a 21st century twist on picketing, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has launched a Virtual Picket Line on the internet to drum up public support for their struggle to get a fair contract as the union and American management hold contract negotiations. To date, several thousand supporters signed on to walk the online picket.

“We are using modern technology to allow people to show their solidarity for American Airlines Flight Attendants,” said APFA President Laura Glading. “As we take part in these intense negotiations …, the power of the Internet has enabled our army of supporters to virtually walk the picket line with us. “We are inspired and energized by this show of support for our struggle to get a fair and just contract that recognizes the commitment and sacrifices Flight Attendants have made for our airline over many years,” said Glading. 


In 2003, when American Airlines found itself in financial trouble, Flight Attendants helped bail them out by providing $340 million annually in cost savings. Benefits and pay have shrunk by 33 percent for Flight Attendants since then, but the airline’s top five executives have taken multimillion-dollar bonuses and salary increases totaling more than 2,500 times the gains of Flight Attendants since the agreement. APFA and American management have been mired in contract negotiations for more than 20 months.

“We remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement in our negotiations this month,” said Glading. “However, we are prepared to do whatever is needed to restore our pay, benefits and the respect we deserve. We will not back down.” 

The role of a flight attendant ultimately derives from that of similar positions on passenger ships or passenger trains, but it has more direct involvement with passengers because of the confined quarters and often shorter travel times on aircraft. Additionally, the job of a flight attendant revolves around safety to a much greater extent than those of similar staff on other forms of transportation. Flight attendants on board a flight collectively form a cabin crew, as distinguished from pilots and engineers in the cockpit.  

The first flight attendant, a steward, was reportedly a man on the German Zeppelin LZ10 Schwaben in 1911. Origins of the word "steward" in transportation are reflected in the term "steward" as used in maritime transport terminology. The term purser and chief steward are often used interchangeably describing personnel with similar duties among seafaring occupations.  

This lingual derivation results from the international British maritime tradition dating back to the 14th century and the civilian United States Merchant Marine which US aviation is somewhat modeled. Due to international conventions and agreements, in which all ships' personnel who sail internationally are similarly documented by their respective countries, the U.S. Merchant Marine assigns such duties to the chief steward in the overall rank and command structure of which pursers are not positionally represented or rostered. 

Imperial Airways of the United Kingdom had "cabin boys" or "stewards"; in the 1920s. In the USA, Stout Airways was the first to employ stewards in 1926, working on Ford Trimotor planes between Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Western Airlines (1928) and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) (1929) were the first US carriers to employ stewards to serve food. Ten-passenger Fokker aircraft used in the Caribbean had stewards in the era of gambling trips to Havana, Cuba from Key West, Florida. Lead flight attendants would in many instances also perform the role of purser, steward, or chief steward in modern aviation terminology. 

The first female flight attendant was a 25-year-old registered nurse named Ellen Church. Hired by United Airlines in 1930, she also first envisioned nurses on aircraft. Other airlines followed suit, hiring nurses to serve as "stewardesses" on most of their flights. The requirement to be a registered nurse was relaxed at the start of World War II, as many nurses enlisted into the armed forces. 

The majority of a flight attendant's duties are safety related. Prior to each flight, flight attendants attend a safety briefing with the pilots and purser. During this briefing they go over safety and emergency checklists, the locations and amounts of emergency equipment and other features specific to that aircraft type. Boarding particulars are verified, such as special needs passengers, small children travelling as unaccompanied minors or VIPs.  

Weather conditions are discussed including anticipated turbulence. Prior to each flight a safety check is conducted to ensure all equipment such as lifevests, flashlights and firefighting equipment are on board, in the right quantity, and in proper condition. Any unserviceable or missing items must be reported and rectified prior to takeoff. They must monitor the cabin for any unusual smells or situations and maintain certain precautions such as keeping doors disarmed or open during fuelling on the ground. They assist with the loading of carry-on baggage, checking for weight, size and dangerous goods. They then must do a safety demonstration or monitor passengers as they watch a safety video demonstrating the safety features of the aircraft. They then must "secure the cabin" ensuring tray tables are stowed, seats are in their upright positions, armrests down and carry ons stowed correctly and seatbelts fastened prior to takeoff. All the service between boarding and take-off is called Pre Take off Service.  

Flight attendants must conduct cabin checks every 20–30 minutes, especially during night flights to check on the passengers, and listen for any unusual noises or situations. Checks must also be done on the lavatory to ensure the smoke detector hasn't been deactivated, there are no issues with the equipment, nobody having trouble in there or smoking, and to restock supplies as needed. Regular cockpit checks must be done to ensure the pilot's health and safety. They must respond immediately to call lights dealing with special requests and smaller emergencies including a wide variety of in-flight emergencies that do happen from time to time.  

During turbulence, crosschecks must be conducted and during severe turbulence all service equipment must also be stowed. Prior to landing all loose items, trays and garbage must be collected and secured along with service and galley equipment. All hot liquids must be disposed of. A final crosscheck must then be completed prior to landing. They must remain aware as the majority of mechanical emergencies occur during takeoff and landing. Upon landing, flight attendants must remain stationed at exits and monitor the airplane and cabin as passengers disembark the plane. They also assist any special needs passengers and small children off the airplane and escort children, while following the proper paperwork and ID process to escort them to the designated person picking them up. 

Flight attendants are highly trained for a wide variety of emergencies and how to respond. More frequent situations may include a bleeding nose, illness, small injuries, intoxicated passengers, aggressive and anxiety stricken passengers. Emergency training includes rejected takeoffs, emergency landings, cardiac and in-flight medical situations, smoke in the cabin, fires, depressurization, on-board births and deaths, dangerous goods and spills in the cabin as well as land and water landings including the preparation of passengers and the cabin, the emergency evacuation with evacuation slides or rafts and then the follow-up survival skills which include environments as open water, jungle, water, tropical and Arctic climates, along with a variety of emergency equipment. Flight attendants are now also given basic training on defense against terrorist attacks. 

Many regions mandate the presence of flight attendants on commercial aircraft, based on the passenger capacity of the aircraft and other factors. This mandate generally relates only to their function as safety technicians. 

The main and always primary duty of a flight attendant is for safety but they do also provide a care giving and customer service role on board commercial flights. Customer service duties include the preparation and serving or selling of on-board food and beverage. Flight attendants also offer comfort items including blankets, pillows, hot towel service, handing out headsets, magazines, newspapers, amenity kits, games and on certain airlines hand out pajamas and set up and make the lie flat beds. They also distribute customs forms on international flights and assist passengers with their proper completion prior to landing. 

The In-flight Service Manager (ISM), Cabin Service Manager (CSM). The title associating with this crew member differs from airline to airline. These crew are mainly found on larger aircraft types and are in charge of the running of the cabin. They report when the cabin is secure for takeoff and landing, deliver on-board announcements and any broken or missing emergency equipment items to the pilots after the preflight check. They generally operate the doors during routine flights as well as hold the manifest and account for all money and required paperwork and reports for each flight. 2-4 Senior Crew Members may also be on board the larger aircraft types.  

In-flight Service Managers are flight attendants that have been promoted through the ranks- Flight attendant Senior crew member Purser In-flight Service Manager. To reach this position the crew member must have had a mandatory amount of service years within the airline or airlines prior to changing airline. Further training is mandatory, and In-flight Service Managers typically earn a higher salary than flight attendants because of the added responsibility.

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