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AFA Debrief: March 28, 2023

Date: March 28, 2023

AFA Debrief – March 28, 2023

The Flight Attendant Labor Union in Women’s History Month
Cart Safety and Proper Handling
Notification of Delays or Cancellations to Flight Attendants

The Flight Attendant Labor Union in Women’s History Month

As Women's History Month draws to a close, it is important to reflect on the significant contributions of women to various fields and industries. One such industry that has seen a notable impact from women is ours, the airline industry, and specifically the role of Flight Attendants. Labor Unions for Flight Attendants, in particular, have been instrumental in advocating for the rights and working conditions for not just Flight Attendants, but of all employees.

The first Flight Attendants were men, but in the 1930s, airlines began to hire women for the role. At that time, this decision was largely based on society’s expectations that women were better suited to provide customer service and were more “visually appealing” to passengers. The women, known as stewardesses, and were primarily hired for their youth, attractiveness, and willingness to work long hours for low pay. They were subjected to strict regulations, including strict height and weight requirements, and were required to quit their jobs if they got married or reached a certain age. In the early days of aviation, Flight Attendants were not unionized and had no legal protections.

This all changed in the 1940s and 1950s, when Flight Attendants began organizing to form labor Unions. The first major Flight Attendant Union was the Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association (ALSSA), founded in 1945. The ALSSA fought for better wages, working conditions, and job security for Flight Attendants. They also pushed for an end to discriminatory practices, such as the requirement that Flight Attendants quit their jobs if they got married.

Over the years, other Flight Attendant Unions formed and merged with ALSSA to create larger, more powerful organizations known today as the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) representing more than 50,000 Flight Attendants continuing the scope in fighting for a variety of labor protections, including minimum rest periods, limits on the number of hours worked, and improved benefits.  

One of the most important of AFA's advocacy also played a vital role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned employment discrimination based on gender, race, religion, and national origin. This legislation marked a significant milestone in the fight for gender equality and provided legal protections for women in the workforce.

In addition, AFA has always been at the forefront of efforts to promote gender equity and diversity in the aviation industry.  For example, in the 1970s, AFA successfully lobbied for the introduction of maternity leave for Flight Attendants. Before this, Flight Attendants who became pregnant were often forced to quit their jobs. Today, Flight Attendants can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In recent years, Flight Attendants have also been outspoken advocates for the #MeToo movement, calling attention to sexual harassment and assault in the aviation industry. AFA has developed policies and training programs to help Flight Attendants identify and respond to incidents of harassment or assault.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, we must recognize the significant contributions of Flight Attendants and their Unions in advancing gender equality in the workplace. The work of these women has paved the way for future generations of Flight Attendants, and their advocacy continues to make a positive impact on the airline industry and beyond.

Cart Safety and Proper Handling

As we enter the season of thunderstorms and increased clear air turbulence with the arrival of spring, it's important to remember the criticality of cart safety and proper handling. Improper usage or positioning of carts can lead to quick injuries to Flight Attendants and restrict access to jumpseats, compromising our ability to protect ourselves during unexpected turbulence.

To avoid such incidents, it's imperative to always follow standard operating procedures, which include:

  • Never leaving a cart unattended. If a Flight Attendant is more than three rows away from the cart, it's considered unattended.
  • Parking carts in their normal galley takeoff/landing positions and restraining them if they need to be parked elsewhere.
  • Ensuring the cart brake is engaged when not in use.
  • Maintaining the galley and carts in an orderly manner at all times, keeping supplies stowed or in their containers and the top of the carts clear.
  • Discontinuing serving hot liquids and removing them from the cart during light turbulence when service can continue.
  • Not letting carts restrict immediate access to jumpseats or emergency equipment.

By complying with these Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), we can ensure swift access to jumpseats for all crew members during unexpected turbulence and keep everyone safe.

Remember, clear air and unexpected turbulence can lead to career-ending injuries, so it's not worth taking the chance. Let's work together to uphold cart safety and proper handling.

Notification of Delays or Cancellations to Flight Attendants

According to Section 7.X. of our Contract, Flight Attendants must be informed of any delays or cancellations as soon as possible, provided they are known at least two (2) hours before the scheduled departure time and are estimated to exceed thirty (30) minutes.

If you are not informed within the specified timeframe and subsequently check in at your regular scheduled time, you should contact Crew Scheduling and request an update to your duty time to reflect your actual check-in time.

It's important to note that if your crew members were notified of the delay, the start of your duty day may be different from theirs. Regardless, you should not hesitate to request the update to your duty period, whether you're at home or on a layover.

If you have any further questions, please reach out to your Local Council office.


MAR – Women’s History Month
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APR 30 – The Joe Beirne Foundation CWA Scholarship Deadline


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