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Great Job! Now Here's Your Punishment

Date: November 5, 2018

Click here to read John Slater's recent message. 

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Dear Flying Partners:

By now most, if not all of us, have read John Slater’s recent communication regarding the changes to service and staffing that will become effective as of February 1, 2019.  Despite the effort to deliver the message wrapped up in pride, growth & producing great results both operationally and financially, there is no way to hide the misguided plan to reduce service and cut staffing. This is unacceptable and an outrageous result for the work group that has done our part to deliver these great operational and fiscal results. None of this is acceptable to us.   

John does have it right – “…growth only works if we can do it efficiently.”   But let’s not lose sight of what this entire initiative is all about.  This is about a senior management team who has made a commitment to Wall Street investors to keep CASM flat.  What is CASM?  Cost per available seat mile (CASM) is a common unit of measurement used to compare the efficiency of various airlines. It is obtained by dividing the operating costs of an airline by available seat miles (ASM). Generally, the lower the CASM, the more profitable and efficient the airline.  The fact is, senior airline management has made a promise to Wall Street investors to keep costs low. They are using reductions in staffing and services as the way to reach their bottom line initiatives.

None of us asked for services to be reduced below what passengers expect from our highly experienced group of service professionals.  What we have consistently asked for is the staffing to timely deliver the services our passengers have consistently come to expect at an airline known for its unique level of service worldwide.

Why is senior management making these reductions now?  They are doing this because, on any given day, they can reduce staffing levels at non-Union carriers like Delta Air Lines.  By constantly comparing Union and non-Union carriers to each other, they use these comparisons in their never ending drive to the bottom.  That is, to the lowest level of staffing we and our customer base will tolerate.

What’s the answer?  We, the workers, must stand together in support of each other. What happens at one airline has an effect on the rest of us. United is saying American and Delta already do it, giving them the “cover” to do it too. Flight Attendants need to stand together and push back. Staffing is about safety and service - we can’t accept the lowest level in either case. We need to stand up for the resources and tools we need to interact successfully with the passengers who are paying all of our salaries. These staffing levels do not give us the people resources we need to develop the relationships with passengers that will encourage them to choose to fly United Airlines – in good times and in bad.  While management may view these positions as a “service role”, we know that having the right Flight Attendant staffing allows us to board faster, deescalate situations proactively and to respond effectively in those situations where the investment in our training really pays off.

Staffing should be increased in these times of profits, not decreased. Cuts were made during industry restructuring to reduce costs. Rather than matching the staffing level of our competitors on these aircraft, we should set an industry standard that makes it impossible for them to compete with United. We should be driving the highest standards today. 

Calling all Flight Attendants across the industry. It is time to band together to out the real reason for diminished service: Short-term gain for Wall Street with billions in stock buy backs funded on our backs. We are an airline, not a hedge fund. Time to focus on our passengers with realistic Flight Attendant staffing and investment in the people who make our airline fly. 


Ken Diaz, President

United Master Executive Council


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