CHARLOTTE, N.C. — American Airlines could face major disruptions later this year, as its 27,000 flight attendants consider authorizing a strike action.

The vote, which is ongoing and will continue through Tuesday, would authorize the flight attendants’ union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, to strike later this year.

As one of the world’s largest airlines, American operates thousands of flights daily to 350 cities in 60 countries. A strike could cause serious disruptions for the airline, particularly as holiday travel ramps up later this fall, according to a Charlotte flight attendant on the local contract action team. 

What You Need To Know

  •  American Airlines and its flight attendants are negotiating an update to their contract
  •  A Charlotte flight attendant claims wages have not increased to meet inflation, as new employees struggle to pay bills
  •  The vote is open to all union members, roughly 27,000 flight attendants

“If we’re released to strike, it can cause major disruptions across the airline industry. But, especially, because American Airlines is the world’s largest airline,” Andrew Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, who’s been flying with American Airlines for five years, said the airline let wages stagnate despite inflation and has been using a dated contract with its attendants. 

“We need to be able to afford to live in these expensive cities,” Alcaraz explained. “American Airlines has bases in the largest cities in the United States. We have flight attendants that are new that have to live with six, seven, eight other people just to be able to pay rent, pay their bills.”

The current contract became amendable in 2019, but any changes were put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alcaraz claims. Now, the union representing the company’s 27,000 flight attendants is asking for a new one.

“We don’t want to raise costs for our customers. What we want to ensure is that flight attendants, and the other work groups at American Airlines, all receive our fair share of the pie. We have our CEOs and other management that are receiving upwards of 60% bonuses, just for on-time metrics, for the work that we do as frontline employees,” Alcaraz alleged. 

The union’s economic proposal was sent over in March and has not received a reply, according to Alcaraz. 

Spectrum News 1 asked American Airlines for comment on the situation and potential strike authorization vote but has not received a response.

“This is our red W.A.R. shirt,” Alcaraz said pointing to his chest, “Also, [I’m] wearing our red W.A.R. pin. So W.A.R. stands for ‘We are ready.”

Repeatedly, Alcaraz said he and fellow flight attendants did not want to hurt airline customers and frequent flyers with potentially higher ticket prices as a result of compensation changes or a strike. 

“My favorite part about being a flight attendant is getting to hear people’s stories, why they’re traveling. Maybe it’s a family vacation, something positive, maybe it’s too a business interview,” Alcaraz said about his relationship with travelers.

But, he also said the airline needed to improve employees’ quality of life, stressing the need for better wages, scheduling and hours eligible for compensation. 

“We don’t feel taken care of,” Alcaraz said in his red T-shirt. “This is going to come from management. They need to give their share of the pie. And, we’re going to demand that.” 

The results of the vote will be announced Wednesday, August 30, as flight attendants and supporters picket at major American Airlines hubs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the same day.

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