Negotiators for American Airlines and its flight attendant union will meet next week to try to hash out final details of a new contract, as the gap between the two sides has narrowed.

“We just spent five straight weeks in negotiation with no agreement,” Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 27,000 American flight attendants, said Monday in an interview. “We will go back to Washington to make another attempt to try to get a deal done.

“We have both narrowed the issues,” Hedrick said. “We are going to get a deal or we will do what it takes to get the contract we deserve.” She said strike booklets went to the printers today. Remaining issues include wages, retroactive pay and schedule.

On schedule, American is seeking concessions, she said. Those concessions would provide the carrier with more flexibility to reschedule lineholder flight attendants during trips, and would also reduce the rest time between international flights.

“These are concessions we are not willing to make,” Hedrick said. “They’ve been asking for them all along and we’ve been saying no all along, but we’re at the end here. Work rules are very important in our jobs. International flights are hard flights.”

Even though CEO Robert Isom has publicly stated that no concessions are being sought from any work group, “That is not the case with the flight attendants,” Hedrick said.

Beyond scheduling, “We have made progress,” she said. “We’re down to a very few issues left on the table.” Negotiations are scheduled for June 10 through June 13 in Washington.

American did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday afternoon.

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.

Like Delta flight attendants, who are not unionized, American flight attendants will be paid for boarding time in their new contract, a change APFA has already secured in negotiations.

As for salary, “the new industry standard is Southwest wages,” Hedrick said. In April, Southwest flight attendants, who are members of the Transport Workers Union, signed a four-year contract that made them the industry’s highest paid. However, that contract does not include boarding pay.

“American feels the industry leader is still Delta, but Delta is no longer the industry leader,” Hedrick said. “Now, we are going for industry leading but we are going to have boarding pay in our agreement. It’s important that this be added to a union contract for the first time.

“At the end of the day, when we get to wages in comparison to Southwest, they will look different because we will make sure we have boarding pay,” she said.

As negotiations have progressed, APFA has reduced its salary demands to 28.7% from 33%. But pay is still being negotiated, as is retroactive pay.

“We know our flight attendants are suffering,” Hedrick said. “We have flight attendants living in cars. I was on a flight last week where a two-week flight attendant told me a majority of the flight attendants in her class live in cars in employee parking lots.”

Starting pay for an American flight attendant is about $27,000 annually. Meanwhile, Isom was paid $31.4 million in 2023, American reported last month. “He is now making 1,162 times the salary of a new hire flight attendant at American,” Hedrick said.

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/716946740/s1WtMQDpM_M1jQe1?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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