Airlines have historically compensated flight attendants for the time they spend from pushback to arrival. They are paid for the actual flight time, not for the time spent boarding the aircraft.
But this is what unions negotiate. It’s historically what they’ve wanted. That’s because it benefits the senior crew at the expense of the junior crew. Senior flight attendants work fewer, longer flights on average, so they spend more time in the air and less time boarding planes.
This is no longer the preferred option. SkyWest and non-union Delta Air Lines increased boarding compensation. This was on top of Delta’s already industry-best compensation.
Flight attendant unions are now demanding boarding pay as well. Without it, they made a deal with Spirit Airlines. However, American Airlines has made boarding pay and matching Delta pay formulas available to its flight attendants—a proposal that the union now rejects as inadequate.
The flight attendant union at United wants payment for time spent on the ground at the airport. This includes compensation for the time they spend connecting between flights as well as from the moment they check in at the airport until the flight is pushed back. To put it simply, clock in and out.
This is a fair method of payment. It records all of the time spent “on the clock.”
They don’t receive as much of an increase in flight pay as they would otherwise when the airline pays them boarding pay.
The AFA-CWA union demands half pay for all time spent on the ground and complete increases in flight pay. What they are arguing about is the total pay package value, which they will then divide into flight and ground pay. Less flight compensation equals more ground pay, and vice versa.
Additionally, junior crew members who spend more time on the ground benefit disproportionately from ground pay. When presented with this compromise, the senior members of the union will not genuinely endorse it.
Due to the poor progress of negotiations, the union will request federal mediation, which is required before requesting that the National Mediation Board declare an impasse and grant permission for a strike.