A flight attendant in Israel is suing her former employer for pay she says is owed her for work she did while on the ground. Shiri Segal, who worked for Arkia Airlines for nearly 10 years, recently filed a lawsuit in the Tel Aviv Labor Court against the Israeli carrier on the grounds that the airline does not pay flight attendants for work they do while not flying. Ms. Segal is asking for compensation of NIS 140,000 (equivalent to about US $38,750).
An article about the lawsuit on the Israeli business news website Globes Online explains:
Segal says that as a matter of policy, which is stipulated in labor contracts, Arkia pays flight attendants only for hours actually in the air. In other words, "from the moment that the plane is moving under its own power from the terminal to the takeoff point and until the engines are shut down after landing."Ms. Segal also notes that Arkia never paid her for the hours waiting for the return flight.
Segal claims that a large part of a flight attendant's work is spent on the ground, before and after a flight. This work includes, but is not limited to, accepting the planes and handing them over, checking the plane before embarkation and after disembarkation of passengers, examining emergency equipment, positioning seat belts, and preparing drink and food carts.
She says that on international flights, she usually begins work at least two hours before takeoff and for two more hours after landing at the destination. Ground work in Israel on the return trip after landing is usually 1.5 hours, for a total of 5.5 hours for which no compensation is paid.
I'm sure that the progress of this lawsuit will be of interest to cabin crew around the world, most of whom are similarly unpaid for work they do on the ground. Most people outside the industry probably are unaware that flight attendants are paid only for "block time" -- that is, from the time the aircraft door closes just prior to departure, until the aircraft's engines are shut down at the destination.
How is it that cabin crew are contractually obligated to perform certain tasks before and after flights, but are not paid for those tasks and the time it takes to perform them? Many of these procedures are safety related, required by government regulations, yet crew are expected to carry them out without any sort of compensation.
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, it calls attention to an entrenched practice in the aviation industry that denies proper compensation to crew for the legitimate and necessary work they do on the ground. Clearly, this practice needs to be reconsidered. If the work is of value to the carrier -- and it is -- then those who do it should be fairly compensated.