American Airlines flight attendants vote to authorize a strike, although a walkout still unlikely

MIAMI – Flight attendants at American Airlines say they are willing to strike as negotiations for pay raises drag on.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said Wednesday that the strike-authorization vote won 99% support from its members.

Flight attendants are picketing at several airports to drive home their unhappiness over the lack of a new contract, including at Miami International Airport.

The vote doesn’t mean that a strike is imminent or even likely.

Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to conduct legal strikes, and several things would need to happen before the flight attendants can walk off the job.

Randy Trautman has been a flight attendant for more than 40 years. He is the Association of Professional Flight Attendants MIA (Miami International Airport) Base President.

“We will fight for a contract that sets the standard for all our members,” Trautman said. “We had a 99.4% strike vote. It authorizes our union to call a strike in the event that parties cannot reach an agreement, and the National Mediation Board released the parties into a 30-day cooling off period.”

Union leadership said based on the current timing of negotiations, if a strike happens, it could land around the holiday travel season, a negotiating tactic with the carrier which they say hasn’t provided a cost of living increase since their contract became amendable in 2019.

“Our flight attendants flew through COVID, kept this airline alive, and yet we have yet to return to the staffing levels pre-COVID,” said Trautman.

Union leadership also claims American Airlines hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic on-board staffing levels, which impacts passenger service.

“If a crew is laying over on let’s say an international city, and you (have) a minimal crew and a flight attendant gets sick on that layover, that flight cancels because there isn’t an extra body, per FAA, to fly that plane back to the states,” said Trautman. “So yes, it is very contributory to the cancellations and disruptions in this industry.”

Statement from American Airlines:

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in negotiations with the APFA, and we look forward to reaching an agreement that provides our flight attendants with real and meaningful value. We understand that a strike authorization vote is one of the important ways flight attendants express their desire to get a deal done. The results don’t change our commitment or distract us from working expeditiously to reach an agreement.”

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."