Wanted: Flight attendants to work for less pay

Wanted: A few good recruits to serve coffee and help combat terrorism at 30,000 feet.
Associated Press
Oct 17, 2012

American Airlines said Wednesday that it will post job openings for 1,500 flight attendants next month. It will start hiring in December and put the new staff in training beginning in January.

That may seem like a strange move for a company trying to cut labor costs under bankruptcy protection. But the airline needs to replace some of the 2,205 flight attendants that have accepted a $40,000 buyout to leave the company — the equivalent of about a year's salary. It's the first time the company has hired flight attendants in 11 years.

The departing flight attendants all started working before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that included the crashes of two American Airlines jets. Since then, they've seen their company lose more than $10 billion. In 2003 workers accepted pay cuts to keep American out of bankruptcy, then were outraged to discover that hundreds of management employees have received bonuses. The flight attendants' final departures will be staggered over the next year.

The job they're leaving has lost the allure it had back when passengers flew in their Sunday best and received free meals in coach. It often involves long hours and responsibilities ranging from basic hosting duties to medical interventions — and even terrorism prevention.

Briefings on the buyouts were standing-room only, according to representatives of the flight attendants' union. Sign-ups to take the offer, which were open to those with at least 15 years at the airline, ended Sept. 20. The airline currently has about 16,000 flight attendants.

The buyouts were part of a concessionary contract approved by flight attendants in August and were aimed at reducing the number of layoffs. The contract would impose tougher scheduling rules but give the attendants a 3 percent stake in American's parent, AMR Corp., after it emerges from bankruptcy protection.

American became the last of the major U.S. carriers to file for bankruptcy protection in November. The airline has since negotiated new contracts with seven of its eight unions. It's trying to cut labor costs by $1 billion.

The new flight attendants will be paid less than their more experienced counterparts. They could also work less than the outgoing staff. Flight attendants work by the hour.

U.S. flight attendants made an average of $37,740 a year as of 2010, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. American says its flight attendants make about $45,000 a year on average, not including a supplement for meals and other travel expenses.

American's flight attendants stay in the job for an average of 21 years — longer than any other work group. The average American flight attendant is now more than 50 years old, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

And the rate of those quitting or retiring is much slower than other groups as well. The airline loses about 4 percent of its attendant workforce per year through attrition. Customer service representatives leave at a rate four times that.

Those who must now look for other jobs will face a tough road. Unemployment fell below 8 percent last month for the first time in 4 years. And job growth remains sluggish. The 114,000 jobs employers added in September are roughly enough to keep pace with population growth.

American is based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company said Wednesday that it lost $238 million in the third quarter due to employee severance payouts and other costs related to its bankruptcy. The company has asked a bankruptcy judge for an additional month to present its reorganization plan. If approved, it would push the deadline for that plan to late January.

The union representing American's flight attendants thinks the best route for the company is a combination with US Airways Group Inc. The APFA along with unions representing pilots and ground crews agreed to provisional contracts with US Airways earlier this year should the pair merge.

American executives have said they prefer to come out of bankruptcy as a stand-alone airline. But they are exploring other options including a tie-up with US Airways.

In a note to employees Wednesday, CEO Tom Horton said its "careful review of strategic alternatives" is continuing.

 

Comments

The Big Dog's back

The Repub way, work harder for less pay.

Swamp Fox

Another example of upper level democrapper union hacks selling out the hardworking rank & file.

Darwin's choice

Thats what it's going to take to dig the country out of the hole Obama is putting us in!

Kimo

Re:Thats what it's going to take to dig the country out of the hole Obama is putting us in!

Take the present cost and the legacy costs out for the Iraq war and two thirds of that "hole" would vanish.
Bush dug the hole, Obama has made it deeper trying to claw his way out.......

Kimo

I just flew with AA and those people are worth a lot more than they are being paid. On the flight from HNL to DFW we saw a plane going out to HNL. I overheard one flight attendant tell another that her husband was the pilot on the plane heading for HNL. With those kinds of schedules they don't have much of a family life.

margaritaville88

montana to texas..u must not live here..go Cowboys anyway !

Kimo

Re:montana to texas

Montana....LOL

FlyBoy86

AA needs more help than labour cost reductions. They are going to merge with US. Its only a matter of time. AA made a huge Airbus order to compliment the US fleet.

Justme...

I have a good friend who was a flight attendent for American. She gave away almost all of her shifts and kept just one a month, and got to keep all of her benefits. This was a great deal for her and her family. After 9-11 the industry changed and could no longer afford what they had negotiated with the union over the years. They have only themselves to blame.

KURTje

WANTED: Pay & benifit cuts for ALL elected officials starting at the top. We the people want their health care too.

Justme...

OK....but what does that have to do with unsustainable labor costs for American Airlines?

donutshopguy

kURTje,

I agree.

In fact, our government was set up for people to serve there country for a short period of time on meager compensation and then return to there regular occupation. It was never meant to be a full time occupation with excessive benefits.

You served your country as a responsibility and then returned to your normal life. Somewhere this concept has been skewed.

We need to return to the concept started by our country's founding fathers.

FlyBoy86

This is an article about aviation...not government...stay on the task of the article. If you want to talk about poltics, run for office yourself and make change.

Another interesting topic on hand about AA and US is even when they do merge, they still will not be profitable. US has been looking for a partner long before now. Remember America West? US said they had to merge with them in order to stay afloat. They merged and it's still a cluster. Two years ago US said they had to merge with Delta or else they couldn't operate. US is just a leech and it'll be sad when AA no longer exists 20 to 30 years down the road.

KURTje

Okay why is it ALWAYS labour. Why won't management take cuts to help an organization? Has your electric bill gone down? How about the cost of a new vehicle? There is no reason for me to buy new just on that 1reason alone. Not to mention the ever increasing price of fuel. Naw...our country is in need of real leadership; not self serving people who worry only about their stacks.