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United Airlines flight attendants’ protest lands in Boston

Date: September 27, 2022

By , Boston Herald

Flight attendants across the country, including in Boston, are demanding that United Airlines fix its operational and staffing deficiencies, which they say have left them — and their customers — grounded for hours after flight cancellations.

Andrew Fahy, president of United AFA Boston, which represents United Airlines flight attendants, said Tuesday’s demonstration at Logan International Airport was aimed at getting the company “to sit up and take notice” of its staffing problem.

“We can’t get a hold of the crew desk, we can’t work,” he said. “We’re not in charge of where we go.”

According to the union, staffing shortages in the United Airlines crew center have left flight attendants unable to reach anyone for assistance after flights have been canceled. This has left them on hold for hours while they wait to be reassigned to another flight, Fahy said.

In many cases, Fahy said, attendants are left stranded in airports overnight, particularly younger employees who may not be able to afford hotel accommodations if they’re not immediately reimbursed by the airline. Some go without sleep, he said.

“You have so many people on hold who can’t work,” Fahy said. “We’re hoping to get the company’s attention in a louder way to say, ‘Hey, you have this particular problem.’ We can’t fix this because we don’t run the crew desk. Take ownership of this.”

The protest at Logan Airport was much smaller than what was seen in other locations throughout the U.S. and in Guam and London on Tuesday. Only 10 flight attendants picketed in Boston, due to constraints with the group’s permit from Massport, which owns and operates the airport.

Southwest Airlines flight attendants joined some of the protests on Tuesday as well.

According to data from FlightAware, there were 6,804 canceled flights and 67,745 delayed flights from United Airlines between May and Sept. 21 of this year.

A lack of communication from management during these schedule changes has left flight attendants without the necessary support to address passenger concerns, a union spokesman said.

United Airlines said it has already taken steps to address the problem.

“We’ve worked hard to reduce wait times for flight attendants to talk to a crew scheduler, including more hiring and adding digital options for some items,” a United Airlines spokesperson said.

While United UFA, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is in the midst of contract negotiations, Fahy said their beef is not due to a contractual dispute.

It’s no secret that United Airlines had a bad summer, he said, citing schedule changes and frequent flight cancellations.

“It’s a system-wide problem,” Fahy said. “It’s not just United. We’re just trying to get United to fix it.”

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