Home > News > E-Lines: April 30, 2021

E-Lines: April 30, 2021

Date: April 30, 2021

Breeze Airlines Hires Interns as Flight Attendants

As reported by One Mile at a Time, there are two new airlines starting up whose hiring policies, and their potential impact on the industry, may be controversial.  One, Avelo Airlines launched yesterday; and Breeze is anticipated to be starting soon. The article gives some fresh outsider perspective on the impact these airlines may have, not only on our industry, but also on our profession.  Some of the highlights of the story include:

With Avelo Airlines having launched operations , Breeze Airways is expected to be the next US airline startup to begin flying. The airline is expected to start selling tickets any day now, and many are curious about what the Salt Lake City-based carrier’s first routes will be. Ahead of the launch and after having spent some time with founder David Neeleman,  Forbes offers an insider perspective about the airline.

We offer a few of the highlights in this story, because there are some really surprising tidbits in here.

Breeze Airways views flight attendants as interns

One Mile at a Time has written in the past about Breeze’s controversial approach to hiring Flight Attendants, which requires being enrolled in college and living in company housing. In other words, the airline is trying to exclude anyone who has a family, a college degree, or is looking to build a career.

The speculation is that the role of Flight Attendant will be more like an internship than a career, because Neeleman believes “Flight Attendants don’t improve much with years of experience, and that they can get trapped in a dead-end job due to the seniority system we see at other airlines.”  In summary:

How will Breeze compensate flight attendants?

  • They’ll be paid a fixed $1,200 per month
  • They’ll receive $6,000 towards tuition for online coursework
  • They’ll receive company housing

It’s stated that the role of Flight Attendants will be “part time,” as they’ll “work 15 days per month.” Arguably, the only good thing about this is the tuition money.

The takeaway from all this is a very clear and apparent “gig” style of work similar to those working for Uber, Instacart, Amazon or other “part-time” employment, with zero path towards job or financial security.  On the surface, you can also extrapolate that most of the people who will “qualify” for this lifestyle are younger people, with an expiration date when they fail to continue to meet the “youthful” requirements. 

From a Union’s perspective, that’s age discrimination plain and simple.  This concept must be viewed for what it is - a direct assault on our profession and careers. No one should be required to do these things, especially when only compensated $1,200 per month for 15 days of work (or $80 per work day). To say it is insulting and an affront to our profession is a gross understatement.

In our profession, there may be things some of us wish to see done differently; be it within the framework of the Contract under which we work, or within the organization that represents us.  Having said that, it’s important to recognize that we have stability, security, job protection and a path forward toward longevity.  Our Contract defines our pay, work rules, benefits and many other factors.  Our Union negotiated our Contract and serves to protect our Members every single day, based on individual circumstances through violations and/or having more of a system-wide impact on all of us. 

In the clearest possible comparison: our most junior Members currently make $30.64 per hour (without incentives or Reserve override), and assuming the minimum daily flight assignment has a value of five (5) hours, the daily rate of pay is $153.20 per day. In doing this math, we haven’t even begun to factor in other benefits like holiday pay, vacation, retirement & 401(k) and access to health-care, to name but a few of the other considerations in our compensation package.

Corporations such as Amazon and Breeze Airlines must not be the future of working people.  All of us have the right to work one job and earn enough in our career to take care of ourselves and our families; our Union ensures that.

United Vaccine Requirements Clarified

Earlier this year, United CEO Scott Kirby floated in the media the idea that mandatory vaccines may be in our future. Having previously made this claim, in an event hosted by the Washington Post this past week, Kirby reiterated the airline is not currently planning to move forward with a broader vaccination requirement, but is considering if vaccination should be required for employees flying to countries like India where variants have spread and led to a surge in COVID infections.

Kirby was quoted saying, “watching what’s happening in India, Brazil and Peru has us back again having some intensive discussions about whether it’s the right thing to do at least for those work groups. And we’re talking to the Unions about it as well right now.”

You should know that AFA is not currently in discussion with management about mandatory vaccination for Flight Attendants.

CDC New Mask Guidance & United Mask Updates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled updated guidelines this past week detailing activities that vaccinated people can safely resume, including attending small outdoor gatherings without the need to wear a mask.

The new "interim public health recommendations" detail a variety of situations in which individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can forgo wearing a mask, but urged the continued use of face coverings in most indoor settings and in crowded outdoor areas.

The new guidelines suggest that fully vaccinated individuals continue wearing masks:

  • When in public spaces,
  • When gathering indoors with unvaccinated people from more than one household,
  • When visiting unvaccinated high-risk individuals or,
  • In an outdoor setting or venue where masks are required.

The updated CDC guidance recommends that fully vaccinated people continue to avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.

Although the CDC released updated guidance expanding the number of outdoor activities it considers safe for fully vaccinated people, United’s face covering/mask policy remains unchanged.

While the CDC’s recommendations are encouraging, the federal mandate remains in place. The Federal mask mandate on planes and in airports, signed by President Biden in January, was set to expire on May 11.  Because the pandemic is still a dangerous part of our lives, our efforts to have the mandate extended were achieved earlier today.  See our article about this vital update below.

As a reminder, a U.S. federal law requires face masks at airports and on-board aircraft to, from and within the United States and its territories. This law aligns with United’s even more comprehensive global mask policy. Noncompliance with the law carries potential criminal and civil penalties.

Reminders in the security directive:

  • Exceptions do not apply to people for whom mask wearing is merely difficult or inconvenient.
  • Those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are not exempt from the mask requirement.
  • Masks must be worn between bites and sips while eating and drinking.

For more information, please contact your Local Council’s AFA Safety, Health & Security Committee.

Federal Mask Mandate Enforcement Extended

On Friday, April 30th, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it is extending the mask enforcement directive to September 13, 2021.  We are grateful to both the TSA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for their continued support with mask mandate enforcement and zero tolerance for failure to comply or interfere with our duties. This will also extend the FAA’s Zero Tolerance policy for unruly passengers and provide us the federal back up we sometimes require.

Earlier this month, AFA advocated for the directive to be extended in a letter to TSA Administrator Pekoske.  AFA International President, Sara Nelson, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, Innovation.

Progress in prevention of Covid-19 has been made in the form of vaccinations and social distancing precautions, but all evidence shows that the best way to stay healthy and avoid contact with the COVID-19 virus is to wear a mask consistently and properly.  Continuing this enforcement through September 13 gives us more time to mitigate the virus and keep Flight Attendants and passengers safe. Our sincere appreciation to the Biden Administration, the FAA and the TSA for this strong stance on keeping us all protected.  

Workers Memorial Day – April 28

Fifty years ago, on April 28, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) went into effect after the tireless efforts of the labor movement, which drew major attention to work-related deaths and injuries, organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from their government.  And, on this 50th Anniversary of the Workers Memorial Day, we remember those who have suffered and died while on a job. No matter the industry, under the law, every employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. But each year, thousands of people are killed and millions more get sick or are injured from preventable workplace hazards.

In our arena, we know many who we have lost; and we continue to lose too many workers to COVID-19, and other workplace hazards. No one should die simply because they show up to work every day. And after this past year, we are especially mindful of the flying partners who have lost their lives to COVID-19; and we remain committed to the fight for improved health and safety protections as well as overall safer working conditions in their memories.

Union coalitions along with our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But there is much to be done before the promise to keep all workers safe on the job can be fulfilled.  We must continue to fight and push forward to ensure safe jobs for all workers through strong unions and strong laws to protect workers.

Read more, including our AFA International Officers providing a tribute related to this week’s Workers Memorial Day commemoration, on the AFA International website.

Protecting the Right to Organize Act –  PRO Act

Worker safety and worker’s voices go hand in hand. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have come together and used our collective voice to demand and win job safety protections from this highly contagious virus.

This year, America’s labor movement and our allies are launching a full-scale national campaign to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would give the tens of millions of workers who want to form a union a fair path to do so.

Outdated labor laws have hampered our fundamental right to join and negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions.  Also, the PRO Act supports a workers first agenda by giving working people laws that protect our rights to organize, keep us safe at work and advance racial and economic justice.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the PRO Act last year, but anti-worker legislators in the Senate blocked it. Undeterred, working people fought to elect pro-worker lawmakers to the Senate, House, and White House. And we won.

Lawmakers gave us their word they would make the PRO Act a top priority.  It is time for them to keep that promise. The House passed the PRO Act for a second time on March 9, 2021, sending the bill to the U.S. Senate.

The PRO Act is the cornerstone of the AFL-CIO’s Workers First Agenda. If it passes, it would:

  • Empower workers to organize and bargain.
  • Hold corporations accountable for union-busting.
  • Repeal “right to work” laws, which were created during the Jim Crow era to keep White and Black workers from organizing together.

Stronger unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions, and dignity for all people who work. The PRO Act is our first step to get there.

Now is the time to call your U.S. Senators and tell them to pass the PRO Act now!

Use this form and we will connect you to your U.S. Senators: Tell them to vote “yes” on the PRO Act

White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment 

President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order on Monday establishing a task force aimed at empowering workers to organize and bargain with their employers that will be chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris

The White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment will be vice-chaired by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and will include more than 20 Cabinet members and heads of other federal agencies. It will aim to facilitate worker organizing across the country, increase worker power in underserved communities, and increase union membership.

The move is the latest of several pro-union actions taken by the President, who pledged the night before Election Day to be the "most pro-union President you've ever seen." Biden often says unions "built the middle class," and days after taking office signed an executive order restoring collective bargaining power to federal employees. 

This order directs the task force to make a set of recommendations within 180 days on how existing policies, programs and practices can be used to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government, and what new policies are needed to achieve the task force's mission in increasing and protecting union members.

Although the Task Force’s immediate mandate is to identify means in which the federal government can better promote organizing and collective bargaining within its own workforce, the Task Force’s policy recommendations and proposals could have broader implications for private employers as the Biden administration and House Democrats seek to limit states’ abilities to enact or enforce right-to-work laws.

We will continue to keep you updated on developments arising out of Task Force activity as it relates to our careers as Flight Attendant Safety Professionals.

FAA Continued Crack Down on Unruly Passengers

As we reported, the FAA is taking strong enforcement action against unruly passengers who disrupt air travel.  This past week, the FAA announced three new cases involving stiff penalties against such individuals.  Not surprisingly, all three cases involved passengers who brought their own alcohol onto the plane.

In a press release announcing these fines, the FAA confirmed that it is “strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights, fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations, or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.”

While imposing these penalties is important, it is good to see that the FAA is also aggressively publicizing these actions.  Penalties have no deterrent effect if no one knows about them.

In the first matter, the FAA assessed a $31,750 fine against a passenger for misconduct on a January 4, 2021 JetBlue Airways flight from Haiti to Boston, Massachusetts. According to the FAA, the passenger brought alcohol on the plane and acted in a disruptive manner, including yelling, and waving his hands “in an angry manner” at Flight Attendants who were called over by another passenger who complained about his behavior. The FAA also claimed that the unruly passenger grabbed the arms of two separate Flight Attendants during the flight, and the Flight Attendants had to reseat the surrounding passengers.  As a result of these altercations, the “flight crew asked law enforcement to meet the aircraft at the arrival gate, and police escorted the passenger off the plane.”

The second case, which occurred on the same January 4, 2021 JetBlue Airways flight from Haiti to Boston, also involved a passenger who was drinking his own alcohol.  The FAA claims the passenger “yelled, shouted obscenities, and made motions to strike a Flight Attendant when they arrived at his seat in response to a complaint from another passenger.”  The police also escorted this passenger from the plane at the arrival gate.

The third case involved a January 14, 2021, SkyWest Airlines flight from Yuma, Ariz., to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  As with the first two incidents, the passenger also brought his own alcohol on the plane, and “drank multiple 50 ml bottles.”  According to the FAA, “the passenger repeatedly turned around and tried to touch a passenger behind him.”  After the Flight Attendants moved him to another seat, “he continued to bother passengers around him and to leave his seat.”  Two off-duty law enforcement officers had to physically wrestle him back into his seat.  However, even after that the passenger again got up and started to walk to the front of the aircraft. A Flight Attendant yelled at him to sit back down, and the law enforcement officers sat in the row behind him. As a result of the passenger’s behavior, the captain requested priority handling from air traffic control and asked that law enforcement meet the aircraft at the arrival gate.

For more information, please contact your Local Council’s Safety, Health & Security Committee.

June Special COLA Bids Close May 4 at 8:00AM CT

As a reminder, the deadline to submit for a Special COLA (1-month) for June is May 4 at 0800 CT.  If interested, visit CCS > Leaves > Special COLA before the close of bids.

Flight Attendant Fatigue Report (FAFR) Tool Now Available

The Flight Attendant Fatigue Report (FAFR) Tool is a confidential reporting tool that allows Flight Attendants to proactively identify and report instances of fatigue and ask questions.  It is part of the larger Flight Attendant Risk Management Program (FA-FRMP), on which we recently reported..

Working in collaboration with management, this program uses a comprehensive approach to manage fatigue to promote the safety of Flight Attendants. Why is this important? Did you know that 20% of all incidents investigated by the NTSB identified fatigue as a probable cause or contributing factor?

Prolonged wakefulness can result in:

  • Impaired Judgement
  • Reduced short and long-term memory
  • Slowed reaction time and reduced vigilance

Getting adequate rest is the first and most critical step to avoiding fatigue.  Taking the appropriate steps to ensure adequate sleep in conditions conducive to rest, that is a dark, cool, and quiet location is critical.  If circumstances beyond your control prevent this rest, especially if while on duty or on layover, you should report them.  Additionally, should you experience fatigue after working certain pairings that mix circadian rhythms, report these in order to improve overall quality of work life and avoidance of fatigue.

Paying attention to how you’re feeling, and of equal importance, reporting circumstances that lead to Flight Attendant fatigue is the focus of this new program.

The program is confidential and designed to address fatigue-related situations and create solutions.  We encourage you to thoroughly read about the program, discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your Local Council, and begin using the reporting tool. 

India Travel Restriction Begins Tuesday

It was announced today, that the Biden administration will restrict travel from India beginning this coming Tuesday, May 4.  The action is a response to the surge of coronavirus cases and variants currently overwhelming the country.

The administration will issue a 212(f)-order restricting entry into the U.S. for foreign nationals who have been in India within the previous 14 days, a source familiar with the move said, adding that airlines have been told of the decision.

The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents or other people with exemptions. As with all international travelers, individuals who fit that criteria traveling from India must still test negative prior to leaving the country, quarantine if they have not been vaccinated, and test negative again upon reentering the U.S. from India. The restrictions also do not apply to humanitarian workers.

While we have been actively engaged with United management on the events happening in India during the last week to ensure our continued safety while on the ground in India as well as while inflight, we have not been advised of any impending plans to modify flight schedules as a result of this Executive Order.

Welcoming our Flying Partners Formerly from Seattle

Sunday, May 2nd marks the beginning of our May schedule month.  This also marks the day when our friends and flying partners who were based in SEA take to the skies in their new base locations, following the closure of the SEA satellite base.

While all of us recognize and accept that our chosen career is anything but consistent, we all learn to adapt to ever changing schedules, policies, and circumstances, never more so than over the past year perhaps.  However, the change resulting from the closure of the base is not only particularly difficult, it affects each one of us personally.

As these colleagues begin the next chapter in their career, let’s welcome them back to the base from which they originally transferred and let’s do everything we can to make their transition back to the base (and commuting) as successful as we can.

Updated Passenger Brace Positions

Based on updated guidance from the FAA, United is modifying brace positions to be used by passengers in the event of an emergency landing. 

As a result of this decision, updated safety information cards will be provisioned on the aircraft and the anticipated timeline for the rollout of these new cards is July 2021. 

In addition, Flight Attendant resources used when preparing the cabin in the event of an emergency will also be updated.

For additional information, review United’s Safety Alert which was released earlier this afternoon.

Reminders and Quick Links  

May – Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May 4 – June Special COLA Bid Closes
May 5 – Cinco de Mayo
May 9 – Mother’s Day
May 13/14 – AFA Board of Directors Meeting
May 17 – Tax Day
May 31 – Memorial Day


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