American Airlines CEO Robert Isom sought to break through negotiations with flight attendants on Wednesday, offering an immediate 17% raise.

“We’ve offered increased pay for all flight attendants and are not asking your union for anything in return,” Isom said. “This is unusual, but these are unusual times.” He said the raise would appear in June paychecks.

The offer was made in a video sent American’s 27,000 flight attendants, who are members of the Association of Flight Attendants. It came as the union opened a strike center in Dallas and as the two sides prepare for what may be last-ditch negotiations next week. It did not provoke a positive response.

“Our CEO has decided to negotiate with our members directly,” APFA President Julie Hedrick said Wednesday in an interview. “He is trying to circumvent the union.”

Hedrick said the 17% increase represents a match of the existing Delta pay rates. “We have told them over and over again, it will not pass” in a membership vote, she said. The union’s board was set to consider the new offer Wednesday afternoon.

Rather, she said, APFA wants an industry-leading contract, which would surpass Delta’s rates. Delta also provides boarding pay, which APFA has already secured in bargaining. For now, Southwest flight attendants, represented by the Transport Workers Union, have the leading industry contract. Southwest wages are 24% of American wages, but the Southwest contract does not have boarding pay.

Hedrick said American has made the same 17% offer previously, and members were not interested. That lack of interest has been made clear in emails and texts to her as well as in union chat groups, she said. “Too little, too late,” one flight attendant posted. “Stop trying to negotiate with the members and get to the damn table.”

Talks next week in Washington with the National Mediation Board will occur at American’s request. “They should focus on that, not on trying to circumvent the union,” Hedrick said.

In his video, Isom said, “The company and APFA negotiating teams have been meeting regularly for months to reach a new agreement. We have made progress in a number of key areas, but there’s still a good deal of work to be done.

“We will be back at the table with APFA leadership next week and a deal is within reach, but I don’t know how long it will take to get to the finish line and I don’t want another day to go by without increasing your pay.

“So to get more money to you now, we presented APFA with a proposal that offers immediate wage increases of 17% and a new formula that would increase your 2024 profit sharing,” Isom said.

The APFA strike center provides a dedicate strike hotline, produce written material including a strike handbook and communicate with members.

Talks are being conducted with a mediator from the National Mediation Board. So far, the NMB has held off releasing the parties, a move that would enable the union to call a strike after 30 additional days of talks. The NMB refused an APFA request for release in November, but Hedrick believes the response to a second request would be different.

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