Thousands of flight attendants protest for better conditions and wages nationwide

Demonstrations took place outside several U.S. airports, including Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, where flight attendants rallied for improved working conditions and higher pay.

Nearly two dozen local flight attendants employed by various airlines voiced their demands prominently, joining their compatriots in a nationwide push for more favorable contract terms amidst rising living costs.

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"I’ve been flying for 30 years and have not had a raise in five years," declared Beth Fortner-Rodgers, Vice President of United AFA Council 42. 

Flight attendants are clamoring for boarding and ground pay, pointing out to the public that their wages only commence once the aircraft's main cabin door is sealed and the plane has been pushed back from the gate.

The current pay structure means that numerous potentially unpaid hours can accumulate, especially when unforeseen factors like turbulent weather occur. 

"We are more frustrated than our passengers. Our goal is to get our passengers to their destination safely and as quickly as possible," Fortner-Rodgers explained.

Demonstrations weren't isolated to United Airlines' staff. Southwest Airlines attendants, despite recently achieved contract negotiations, showed unity. 

"Overworked flight attendants are not safe. It’s vital we take care of ourselves to serve and ensure we earn a livable wage," stated Mayron Knight, a Southwest Flight Attendant.

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With the aviation industry's landscape dramatically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic and in-flight aggression, Nathan Keeling, another Southwest Flight Attendant, emphasized the necessity for current contracts to mirror these changes.

"We’re all united by wings, so it doesn't matter which one you work for, we all do the same job. We’re there for the safety of our passengers. It’s just the wings change, the company changes. But at the end of the day, we all do the same job. The industry has changed over the years. We saw a lot of changes with COVID, aggression on the plane, things we’ve never dealt with before. It’s time for our contracts to reflect those changes," Keeling said.

While an immediate strike isn't expected, according to the Flight Attendants union, failure to meet demands could trigger next steps under the law, including a strike authorization vote and asking to be released into a 30-day cooling-off period. 

"We’re not there yet, and we don’t want to be there," Fortner-Rodgers said.

"It can literally bring it to a screeching halt if a strike does happen. Planes wouldn’t be taking off from Intercontinental today, flight attendants wouldn’t be showing up for work. You wouldn’t be able to make it on your cruise or go to Disney or wherever," added Keeling.

As discussions continue, United Airlines flight attendants are engaging with a mediator and the company this week. The outcomes of these deliberations could set a precedent for the industry and shape the summer travel season.