Showing posts with label airline business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label airline business. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Court orders Philippine Airlines to reinstate 1,400 cabin crew jobs, with back wages

Philippine AirlinesEarlier this week, the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines ordered national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to reinstate about 1,400 cabin crew who were illegally laid off by the carrier in 1998. The cabin crew jobs were eliminated during the Asian financial crisis, a period when Philippine Airlines was undergoing financial difficulties and labor disputes that led the carrier to temporarily shut down operations. The court decision is seen as a clear victory for the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap), which had filed suit against the carrier on behalf of the dismissed cabin crew.

According to an article about the court decision in the Manila Sun-Star, the Supreme Court "granted the petition filed by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (Fasap) seeking a reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) decision upholding PAL's retrenchment program."

The SC sustained the findings of the labor arbiter that found PAL guilty of illegal dismissal and ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed employees, saying the airline failed to comply with certain standards established under the law.

The high court said PAL failed to justify that the retrenchment is necessary and likely to prevent business losses; that the dismissal was done in good faith; and that it used reasonable criteria in ascertaining who would be dismissed and who would be retained among the employees, such as status, efficiency, seniority, physical fitness, age, and financial hardship for certain workers.

According to the SC, PAL initially decided to cut its fleet size to only 14 or "Plan 14," based on which plan, it retrenched more than 1,400 of its cabin crew personnel. However, PAL changed its mind and decided to retain 22 units of aircraft or "Plan 22" but has already retrenched more than what was necessary.

Such move, the court said, is "capricious and arbitrary" and in bad faith considering that more than 1,000 employees who had been working long with PAL lost their jobs, only to be recalled but assigned to lower positions.
The court ruled that PAL acted illegally "because it failed to take into account each cabin attendant's respective service record, thereby disregarding seniority and loyalty in the evaluation of overall employee performance."

The Sun-Star reported that, under the terms of the court decision, PAL is "directed to pay the dismissed employees their full back wages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits computed from the time of their separation up to the time of the actual reinstatement. When reinstatement is no longer feasible, the court ordered PAL to pay the back wages, in lieu of the reinstatement, and separation pay equal to one month's pay for every year of service."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Air Canada to lay off 632 flight attendants, close bases

Air CanadaAir Canada has informed its flight attendants' union of plans to lay off 632 cabin crew in the coming months. The layoffs of 9% of the carrier's flight attendants are a part of its Air Canada's capacity reduction plans, announced last month, which will result in cuts of up to 2,000 positions across all levels of the organization.

Air Canada officials said that 300 flight attendant positions will be eliminated from Vancouver, due to a decrease in international long-haul flights from that base. In addition, Air Canada will close its flight attendant bases at Winnipeg and Halifax as of November 1. As a result, 145 flight attendant jobs in Winnipeg, and 187 in Halifax will be lost. According to news reports, Air Canada may offer some flight attendants who are losing their jobs at those bases an opportunity to transfer to Toronto or Montreal.

Air Canada flight attendants are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). An article about the Air Canada layoffs on the CBC News website quotes Lisa Vivian Anthony, president of CUPE Local 4090 in Halifax, who said, "We are shocked and we are in a state of disbelief. Our base has been in operation in Halifax for 32 years, so this is essentially the end of an era for us."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Flight attendant union protests Midwest Airlines pay cuts

AFA-CWA logoLate last month I reported that Midwest Airlines not only intends to reduce its flight attendant work force by more than half, but is asking those who remain on the job to accept massive cuts in pay and benefits. These proposals have infuriated the flight attendants at Midwest Airlines, and rightly so, since they already earn 19 percent less than flight attendants at other low fare carriers.

Last evening the flight attendants publicly protested these draconian reductions in pay, but it was not just Midwest Airlines flight attendants who participated in the event. Hundreds of flight attendants from 20 carriers joined in the protest as a show of solidarity with the flight attendants of Midwest Airlines.

The flight attendants -- all members of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union that represents Midwest Airlines flight attendants -- formed up at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee and held a candlelight march to the Midwest Center. There they heard remarks made by AFA-CWA International President Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA Midwest President Toni Higgins and a guest from the Milwaukee Central Labor Council.

The AFA leadership explains the situation that prompted this public protest:

In June, in order to offset rising fuel prices and a failed business plan, Midwest Airlines management hired an outside consulting firm, the Seabury Group, to present the flight attendants with a proposal that included furloughing half the work force, over 55 percent pay cuts for those remaining and additional slashes to current work rules. AFA-CWA was given the proposal without any supporting information or documentation and told that, if not accepted, management would have no choice but to file for bankruptcy. After repeated requests by AFA-CWA, management finally supplied background on the proposal, however the information provided was inaccurate and incomplete.

According to the Seabury Group's plan, the proposed Midwest flight attendant pay scale was compiled by taking the average pay rate of flight attendants from smaller carriers and reducing the average by 15 percent. However, as management continued to insist that the concessions were "fair and equitable" for all work groups, calculations for management and non-union employee concessions were based on average salaries at larger, more profitable mainline carriers such as Southwest and Delta.

AFA-CWA has notified management of its intent to negotiate, but not under the current proposed terms. In 2003, Midwest flight attendants took concessions to help the company avoid bankruptcy. Shortly after the concessionary contract was signed, management rewarded themselves with pay restoration and increases, while flight attendants and pilots continued to work under the reduced wages and work rules.
Currently, Midwest Airlines flight attendants earn between $17,000 and $39,000 annually. Should the airline management's proposed pay cuts be implemented, the flight attendants would earn only $13,000 to $25,000 per year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

American Airlines cutting 900 flight attendant jobs

American AirlinesAt it annual shareholder meeting earlier this year, American Airlines announced plans to cut capacity in the coming months, and acknowledged that the capacity reduction would result in the loss of thousands of jobs across every work group. This week, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing American Airlines flight attendants, was notified of plans to cut 900 flight attendant jobs.

According to the APFA, the letter to the union stated that the 900 most junior U.S. based flight attendants are subject to furlough effective August 31, 2008. Several measures intended to mitigate the impact of the work force reduction requirements have been negotiated between the APFA and American Airlines.

The first of these measures is called the Voluntary Bridge to Retirement (a program similar to one offered by United Airlines to its senior flight attendants last month). Under the provisions of the American Airlines Voluntary Bridge to Retirement, the company will offer a severance payment of $15,000, plus medical and pass benefits to flight attendants who are at least 50 years of age who will have at least 15 years company seniority as of August 31, 2008. In addition, American Airlines will offer Overage Leaves of Absence and opportunities for Partnership Flying, a job sharing plan.

A Hotline message on the APFA website about the work force reduction said that the one-time Voluntary Bridge to Retirement will be awarded first, followed by leaves at bases with an overage. Where overages then still exist, partnerships will be awarded. After these three voluntary provisions are exhausted, and should any overage still exist, the company will then determine how many flight attendants will need to be furloughed involuntarily in order to meet flight attendant work force reduction target of 900.

According to the flight attendants' contract with American Airlines, “When there is a reduction in force, the Flight Attendant(s) with the least system seniority shall be laid off." Presumably the majority of those would be the former TWA flight attendants, who also were furloughed after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. American Airlines recalled 200 of those furloughed flight attendants in May of 2007, and another 460 in August of 2007.

As of the end of June, there were still 1,192 American Airlines flight attendants on furlough from the earlier layoffs. This week's announcement of new furloughs surely comes as a blow to those who have been awaiting recall for years.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Midwest Airlines flight attendants call proposed concessions 'ludicrous'

Midwest AirlinesMidwest Airlines is seeking to reduce its flight attendant work force by more than half, and also wants those remaining on the job to agree to massive cuts in pay and benefits. This week the Seabury Group, an outside consulting firm hired by Midwest Airlines, presented this potentially devastating plan to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing Midwest's flight attendants. The union called the proposed concessionary package "ludicrous."

The plan proposes to cut 217 flight attendant positions, meaning over half of the Midwest Airlines flight attendants would lose their jobs. Those remaining would be asked to agree to hourly pay rate cuts ranging from 34 to 56 percent, plus other concessions that would reduce their income even further.

The union leadership calls the proposed plan "ludicrous" because Midwest Airlines flight attendants already earn 19 percent less than flight attendants at other low cost carriers. The AFA points out that the proposed Seabury plan included no supporting evidence to indicate that Midwest Airlines flight attendants' pay is too high.

In response to the proposed plan, Dory Klein, President of the Midwest Airlines unit of the AFA stated:

"This proposal is insulting, irrational, and fails to be fair and equitable. Midwest flight attendants are currently working under concessions that were negotiated five years ago in order for management to have the resources they needed to return our airline to profitability. Since that time, management has failed to create a viable business plan. It should be their responsibility to carry the burden of restructuring, not the flight attendants'.

"We have made repeated requests to review management and non-contract employee concessions, but have not received this information, which is particularly critical in light of what happened during our last round of concessions in 2003. Shortly after we took pay and work rule cuts, management gave themselves a pay increase and restored the concessions from all other non-union work groups."
The union leader said, "As we wait and see what the future holds for Midwest Airlines, we will continue to do everything we can to protect the careers of Midwest flight attendants."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Details of the United Airlines Flight Attendant 'Early Out' Program

United AirlinesLast week, United Airlines announced plans to retire 100 aircraft, end its low-fare Ted service, and cut over 1,000 jobs. In conjunction with those plans, the airline announced that it will offer "a one-time opportunity for eligible flight attendants to voluntarily separate from the company." Known as the Early Out Program, the voluntary separations will be made available for up to 600 senior United flight attendants.

The United Airlines announcement about the Early Out Program summarizes:

Flight attendants who are at least 45 years old and have at least 15 years of flight attendant service with the company as of August 1, 2008 will be eligible to participate. Participants will be entitled to severance payments based on years of service and retiree travel benefits.
Sounds potentially attractive on the surface, but is this a good deal for senior flight attendants or not? The answer is, "It depends."

Mostly it depends on whether the flight attendant has another source of income to rely on, and access to affordable health insurance coverage.

The present Early Out Program is based on a collective bargaining agreement reached between United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United's flight attendants. The details of the Early Out Program have been made available on the public section of the website of the United Master Executive Council (MEC) of AFA:
  • Eligibility
    • Flight attendants aged 45 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for the Early Out.

    • Flight attendants aged 55 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for retirement, plus the Early Out.

  • Early Out Severance Pay will consist of $500 for each year of service as a Flight Attendant up to 25 years ($12,500 cap). Total pay is distributed in 12 equal installments beginning January 2009.
    • Example: 18 years of Flight Attendant service equals $9000. This would be paid out at $750 per month, before taxes, for 12 months.

  • Travel Benefits - retiree travel pass benefits provided for all Early Out participants.

  • Life Insurance will be provided only for those who enter retirement at the time of the Early Out.

  • Medical Insurance will be provided for those Early Out participants who also retire, but not to those who are too young to do so. The latter will be able "to purchase COBRA for continued medical coverage for 18 months at the full cost of the insurance and administration."
United Airlines flight attendants who meet the age and length of service criteria for the Early Out Program would have been employed by the airline prior to and during the carrier's recent bankruptcy period. That means that they had their company pension plans terminated in 2005. At that time, United Airlines defaulted on its pension obligations, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) took over pensions for workers at the airline, including the flight attendants.

Federal regulations limit the amount of pension payments the PBGC can make -- an amount far less than the original pensions -- and by law, that amount is further reduced if the worker retires early, i.e., before age 65. As a result, many flight attendants at United have since felt that they had no practical choice but to continue working until their 65th birthdays. To do otherwise would put them in serious financial straits.

In light of that situation, it seems that the current Early Out Program will be attractive mostly to those who already have a substantial second income, or whose spouses' or partners' income and health care benefits are sufficient to support them.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Flight attendant union files charges against Delta Air Lines

AFA-CWA logoThe Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) has filed formal charges with the National Mediation Board (NMB) against Delta Air Lines alleging that the carrier's management illegally interfered with a recent union representation election among Delta's flight attendants. The allegations "include substantial evidence that Delta flight attendants were denied a free and fair election due to management's aggressive tactics aimed at defeating union representation."

In February of this year, a majority of Delta Air Lines flight attendants signed cards indicating that they wanted union representation. This was the first step in the unionization process. The second step was an official election to determine union representation, a process which ended on May 28.

Under the rules of the NMB, which supervises such elections, 50%-plus-one of all those eligible to vote must do so in order for an election to be certified. In the recent election, only 40% of eligible Delta Air Lines flight attendants cast ballots, thus even though the vast majority of those votes favored the AFA, the election could not be certified.

In a statement issued by the AFA, the organization's International President, Patricia Friend, said, "Delta flight attendants were denied the opportunity to freely participate in this election without being intimidated by management and heavy-handed efforts to keep them from gaining a voice. A majority of Delta flight attendants wanted the opportunity to have an election and they deserve an election that is free and fair. We now look for the NMB to stand up for that right and hold Delta executives accountable for their actions."

The AFA has charged that Delta management acted illegally to suppress the union vote, leading to the less-than-majority turnout, and the subsequently nullified election result. The AFA says:

If the NMB finds sufficient evidence that illegal interference occurred, it can set a new election. AFA-CWA is asking for a new election with a balloting procedure that will limit the effects of any further illegal conduct by Delta management. By rerunning the election using a 'Laker' Ballot, flight attendants will be permitted to vote "Yes" or "No" for AFA-CWA representation. In the previous election, flight attendants were discouraged from participating in the voting process as only the "Yes" votes were counted, thereby automatically counting those who did not vote as "No" votes.
Meanwhile, Delta's plans for a merger with Northwest Airlines are moving forward. Northwest's flight attendants already are represented by the AFA, and they have expressed an intention to stay with the union after the merger is complete.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Delta flight attendant union certification election results

Poster in a Delta Airlines crew lounge urges flight attendants to rip up their union ballots.Balloting for the election to certify the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) as the collective bargaining unit representing Delta Air Lines flight attendants was completed today, May 28, 2008. The AFA reportedly won the "vast majority" of the votes cast, however only about 40% of those eligible to vote did so. Under the rules of the National Mediation Board (NMB), which supervised the election, a majority of eligible voters must cast ballots in order for the election outcome to be certified. Since that did not happen, the AFA cannot be certified as the union representative for Delta's flight attendants at this time.

Management at Delta Air Lines openly opposed flight attendant unionization. The AFA has claimed that an aggressive voter suppression campaign by Delta management kept thousands from casting a vote. Tactics included the posting of signs in flight attendants' crew lounges (see photo) "encouraging them to rip up the voting information before even bothering to read about their rights."

"For months, Delta management has touted its commitment to the democratic process, yet never let up on their intimidation and coercion of voters. Their empty rhetoric cannot conceal their interference. The conditions surrounding election were neither free nor fair, as required by NMB statutes. Now it is up to the National Mediation Board to defend the Delta flight attendants’ right to an election free of interference," said AFA International President Patricia Friend in a statement issued by AFA.

Delta Air Lines put a different spin on the outcome of the union certification election. Instead of mentioning that only about 40% of those eligible cast a vote, the airline's management interpreted the non-votes as NO votes, by stating the following in a Delta Air Lines press release issued today:

Delta Air Lines has received notification from the National Mediation Board (NMB) that a decisive majority – more than 60 percent – of eligible flight attendants rejected representation by the Association of Flight Attendants/Communication Workers of America (AFA) in the representation election at Delta, and the airline will continue a direct relationship with its flight attendants.

“We are pleased that Delta’s flight attendants clearly believe that our unique culture and direct relationship are worth preserving,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “Delta continues to be the best advocate for its people, and our employees recognize the benefits of working together to enhance their careers and drive successful results for themselves and our company.”

Joanne Smith, senior vice president – In-Flight Service and Global Product Development, added, “This decision was one of the biggest our flight attendants faced in their career at Delta and it arose during some challenging times in our industry. Through all of these distractions – soaring fuel costs, a softening economy and an unrelenting AFA campaign of scare tactics and inaccurate information – the professionalism of all of our flight attendants shone as they maintained an unwavering focus on safety and service. This comes as no surprise however, because that is the Delta Difference; it is what sets us apart from the rest of this industry.
Not all Delta flight attendants share management's view of the situation, as evidenced by a particularly well-written opinion piece by a Delta flight attendant in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here is part of what she said:
To protect our future, it is critical that we have safeguards to keep management from destroying our profession —- safeguards that are detailed in a legally binding contract. Delta flight attendants want to maintain the quality of middle-class jobs that have benefited the local Atlanta economy and communities across the country for decades. We want to have a say in building and growing the world's largest airline.

What once was a "family style" environment at Delta is no more. This sad fact faces us each day. The new Delta is run by a group of executives who have only been around for nine months. People like former Northwest CEO Richard Anderson are making decisions that will affect the future of Delta flight attendants who have spent their lives building our company.

Our airline has evolved, and Delta flight attendants intend to do so as well. By becoming union members, we will actively defend our profession. We will protect our interests as we work alongside management in creating the world's largest airline.
There is another chapter to this story that has yet been told: When the Delta - Northwest Airlines merger takes place another union certification election will be held, since Northwest's flight attendants already are represented by AFA. Under the rules of the NMB, when a non-union work group merges with a union group, if 35 percent of combined workforce has union representation or signs a union card, a union election will automatically be called. That vote is expected to occur in early 2009.

[Photo Source]

Monday, April 21, 2008

SAS Scandinavian Airlines' Asian cabin crew dispute

SAS logoLast month I reported that Scandinavian airline SAS went on trial in Copenhagen for allegedly employing Asian flight attendants without Danish work permits. The airline also was accused of paying the Asian cabin crew members substandard wages.

The matter was heard in the Copenhagen City Court, and the Copenhagen Post reports that SAS was found guilty of the charges and fined DKK 900,000. SAS has appealed the verdict to the Danish High Court.

Meanwhile, legislation has been proposed in the Danish Parliament to allow SAS, which is partly owned by the Danish government, to use Chinese personnel on its route between Copenhagen and Beijing. Now the Copenhagen Post is reporting that if parliament does not allow SAS to use Asian cabin crew, the airline has said it may re-register its planes in Norway or Sweden.

The Copenhagen Post article quotes Lars Sandahl Sørensen, CEO of SAS International, who said, "Although it's a solution we'd rather avoid, we might be forced into it."

Planes registered in Denmark are required to operate with personnel who are legally allowed to work in Denmark. The same permit rule may exist in Sweden and Norway as well, but Sørensen said, "...if it does then it would only apply to those countries' own airspaces, and not to Denmark." In other words, the plan seems to be to fly the Beijing-Copenhagen route with planes registered outside of Denmark, in order to dodge the Danish work permit rule.

Sørensen said that employing Chinese crews has nothing to do with paying them lower wages and everything to do with service.

"It's integral for us to have Chinese cabin crews on our flights to China because half the passengers are Chinese," he said. "And it's hard to provide good service for them if we can't communicate."

Sørensen said SAS could not pay the Chinese flight attendants Danish wages because it would create a huge salary disparity between them and their colleagues working on the ground in mainland China. The Chinese crew members earn around 10,000 kroner less per month than their Danish counterparts.
This argument sounds similar to excuses given by Air New Zealand for paying its Chinese cabin crew a fraction of what it pays New Zealand nationals to do identical work. Verner Lundtoft, president of the Cabin Attendants Union, says that the SAS threat to sidestep Danish law is "appalling," and I agree.
"We're talking about a partially state-owned and listed company attempting to avoid the requirements of Danish law," said Lundtoft. "It's completely unacceptable."

Lundtoft pointed out that none of SAS' competitors have employed Asian personnel on their China routes without providing equal working conditions.

"Finnair says it pays their Asian crews Finnish wages, Lufthansa has Chinese cabin crew members earning German scale pay, and Air France has interpreters on board its Asian flights," said Lundtoft.
Apparently SAS can legally re-register its planes in Sweden and Norway, as the airline is a Scandinavian-operated company. It remains to be seen if this will solve the labor issue, however.

It's time for all international air carriers to pay all crew equally for equal work, regardless of ethnicity or national origin. No excuses!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Air New Zealand's Chinese cabin crew pay scandal

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200ERAir New Zealand's Shanghai based cabin crew, who are Chinese nationals, are underpaid. In fact, that's an understatement. They are paid roughly one-quarter the salary of their Kiwi counterparts -- an amount that is less than the minimum wage in New Zealand. Why should Chinese cabin crew doing the same work, on the same aircraft, on the same route as New Zealanders, be paid less?

In addition to their salary, cabin crew are paid per diem allowances for time spent away from their home base. Air New Zealand's Chinese cabin crew earn a per diem allowance that is only one-third that paid to New Zealand nationals. Why are the Chinese cabin crew assumed to need less than New Zealanders to cover their meals and other expenses when they are overseas?

Keeping in mind that the Chinese cabin crew work alongside New Zealand crew members, doing identical work, this pay disparity is discrimination of the worst kind: Clearly, it is exploitation. New Zealand's government owns the majority of shares in its national carrier, making this situation even more scandalous to my mind.

Recent news stories about this situation, including one published a few days ago by the New Zealand Herald, recount further details.

NZ flight attendants have a starting base salary of at least $24,000 a year.

A source said crew also got $170 for each day they spent overseas, plus other flight allowances, which could add up to $15,000 a year.

The Chinese have an annual wage starting at $6240 and a daily away allowance of $55.

One Chinese air stewardess said her monthly base salary was $520 and she got an extra $4.30 for every hour of flight time. This totals much less than New Zealand's legal minimum wage of $11.25 an hour.
The carrier has attempted to excuse itself from responsibility by pointing out that the Chinese cabin crew are not direct employees of Air New Zealand; rather, they are employed through a Chinese staffing agency. Nevertheless, each reportedly has a New Zealand work permit, listing Air New Zealand as the employer. So then, why are they not paid according to the standard set for New Zealand employees?

Air New Zealand is not the only international air carrier engaging in this type of exploitation of Asian cabin crew members. For example, just last week I wrote about a trial, scheduled to take place today in Copenhagen, in which Scandinavian airline SAS is accused of having paid sub-standard wages to the 34 Chinese and 31 Japanese cabin crew hired since 2005. Those flight attendants were hired by SAS without Danish work permits, allowing the carrier to avoid paying them according to Danish standards. The feeble defense put forth by SAS, quoted in news articles, was that "the women were only in Danish air space for the few minutes it took to fly over the small Scandinavian country," and therefore were exempt from needing Danish work permits.

Rubbish. All of these kinds of cases boil down to carriers attempting to cut costs at the expense of their employees' welfare and dignity. We all know that, with fuel prices and other material costs soaring, these are tough times for the aviation industry, but any temporary economic advantage these companies gain by paying grossly substandard wages to certain employees based on their nationality is greatly overshadowed by human rights issues.

Since when is blatant exploitation good corporate policy? What has happened to the concept of equal pay for equal work?

[Photo Source]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Scandinavian airline SAS on trial over Asian cabin crew

SAS logoA recent article on Forbes.com, the business news website, reported that "Scandinavian airline SAS went on trial in Copenhagen for allegedly hiring Chinese and Japanese flight attendants without Danish work permits." The airline is said to have paid sub-standard wages to the 34 Chinese and 31 Japanese cabin crew hired since 2005.

The news article says:

The prosecution is calling for SAS to pay a fine of 2 mln dkr and for an additional 5 mln dkr it says the airline saved by paying the flight attendants sub-standard wages, to be confiscated from the company.

Following pressure from the unions, the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs decided in 2006 to file suit against SAS, which is partially state-owned, for violating Danish labour laws.

SAS explained at the time that it needed the Asian air hostesses to attend to the needs of passengers flying between Europe and Asia, insisting that the women were only in Danish air space for the few minutes it took to fly over the small Scandinavian country.
I think the claim that the women were only briefly in Danish airspace is only a cover for the true issue: money. This sounds like just one more instance of a two-tiered pay scheme in which work is outsourced to 'foreign nationals' who are paid a lesser amount to do the same work as citizens of the carrier's home country. Last I knew, this was called exploitation.

The final day of the trial is scheduled for March 17, with a verdict expected about a week later, a judicial source told the news media.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Northwest Flight Attendants' Merger Concerns

AFA-CWA logoAmid media reports that Northwest Airlines is in merger talks with Delta Airlines, Northwest's flight attendants have publicized a list of conditions they say must be met in order for them to approve and support the merger of Northwest with another carrier.

In a press release issued earlier this week, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing Northwest's flight attendants, notes that "a merger agreement that addresses the needs of front line employees will help to ensure a quality product and service that meets the needs of our customers." The union has set forth eight conditions that they wish to have included in any merger agreement:

  • Job protections for Northwest flight attendants.
  • Seniority integration of the two flight attendant groups should be given the full protection of the AFA-CWA Constitution and Bylaws and the law, as applicable.
  • Allegheny- Mohawk Labor Protective Provisions that cover displaced workers and other matters not directly related to seniority.
  • Stock, or other equity in the merged company no less favorable than that granted to any other employee group, including management.
  • A labor agreement that provides substantial improvements in compensation and work rules to the current flight attendant agreement.
  • A route structure that has a sufficient network and market strength to allow for growth and profitability.
  • Inclusion in discussions on the effects of a proposed merger prior to the finalization of any transaction.
  • Maintaining a strong hub presence in the Twin Cities and continue to plan for future growth, securing our position as one of the largest employers in Minnesota.
The union also cautions that for a merger to be accepted, it must include "transparent and open communications" between the airline's management and its employees on the status of merger developments, and discussions regarding the issues of concern to employees.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew plan to strike

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew plan two 48-hour strikes this month in a dispute over pay. The flight attendants, represented by the union called Unite, plan to carry out a work stoppage from 06:00AM January 9 through 06:00AM January 11, and again from 06:00AM on January 16 through 06:00AM January 18.

According to a statement issued last month by Unite's press office:

Unite members are calling for a long term solution which addresses the pay differentials between Virgin cabin crew and the crews of its competitors. The staff believe that they have been undervalued for too long and Virgin are failing to recognise their professionalism and loyalty. Their pay lags behind many other airlines who fly the same business and holiday routes. Cabin crew staff working for British Airways can earn up to £10K more than Virgin cabin crew flying the same business routes. On holiday routes Virgin cabin crew can also earn considerably less than many of their competitors.
Virgin Atlantic's Chairman, Richard Branson, told cabin crew in a widely publicized letter, "For some of you more pay than Virgin Atlantic can afford may be critical to your lifestyle, and if that is the case you should consider working elsewhere."

UPDATE January 8, 2008: News media are reporting today that the strike has been called off.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pay raise for Air Berlin cabin crew

Air Berlin logoCabin crew at Air Berlin, Europe's third largest low cost carrier, will get a 3% pay increase on Jan. 1, 2008 and a 2.8% raise in 2009. The Air Berlin cabin crew are represented by the Ver.di labor union.

According to an article about the Air Berlin agreement published by the Bloomberg new service, "The airline, pilots and cabin crews reached the first labor contracts in the company's 29-year history in August, based on current wages and conditions."

The raises apply to employees of the original Air Berlin and to those at the Dba unit, Steffen Kuehhirt, a spokesman at Ver.di's Berlin headquarters, said by phone today. The increases may be subject to "small" changes depending on inflation.

The union plans to start negotiations with Air Berlin about setting up a works council representing cabin crews, Kuehhirt said.
An Air Berlin spokesman said the airline agreed to raise wages by the inflation rate plus 1 percent.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Score one for Northwest flight attendants

Northwest Airlines logoFlight attendants at Northwest Airlines have formally objected to the payment of 'enhanced fees' to several consultants and legal firms that represented the airline during its bankruptcy restructuring. The flight attendants, represented by their union, were joined by the U.S. Trustee and representatives of Northwest's bondholders in formally objecting to the payment of additional fees to four firms. Judge Alan Gropper of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York agreed with them, at least in part, by denying two of the fee applications. The hearing on two others has been delayed.

Northwest flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). A news release on the AFA website about this most recent court action says:

The four firms, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; Otterbourg, Steindler, Houston & Rosen, P.C.; FTI Consulting, Inc; and Lazard Freres & Co. have already received tens of millions in fees. The cost of their professional services soaked up a significant portion of the lost wages and benefits for all Northwest employees. Flight attendants alone are working under 40 percent wage and benefit reductions.

The Court recognized that it was the sacrifice of the employees and other factors -- not just the work of these firms -- that helped turn Northwest around. The Court denied the applications from Cadwalader and Otterbourg. The other firms' applications will be heard at a later date.

In so ruling, the Court noted the importance that the process be perceived as a fair one, clearly concerned that these outrageous fees would have diminished the fairness of the entire process.
Commenting on the flight attendants' position in this matter, Kevin Griffin, president of the Northwest MEC of AFA said, "If AFA-CWA had not objected today, more millions of dollars of our concessions would have been wasted on these outrageous fees. Management did not object to these fees, so the money is clearly available. Since they will not have to pay these ridiculous bonuses, we think it is far better spent on returning some of the pay and workrules the Northwest flight attendants have sacrificed."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Icelandair cabin crew: No overtime

Icelandair logoIcelandair's cabin crew have agreed to show solidarity with the airline's pilots by refusing to work overtime. According to a news report from Reykjavik, members of the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (FFÍ) met on September 10th to discuss the issue.

“There is a great solidarity within the group,” head of FFÍ Sigrún Jónsdóttir told Morgunbladid, adding there had been a good atmosphere during yesterday’s meeting. About 160 of 605 cabin crew workers listed at Icelandair attended the meeting.

Jónsdóttir said FFÍ members had discussed possible counter measurements with Icelandair’s board for those who have not been made redundant, like being offered a vacation, paid or unpaid, or reduced working hours between December and March.
Some Icelandair flights were canceled earlier this week because of the wage dispute between the pilots and the airline management.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

American Airlines recalls 460 furloughed TWA F/As

American Airlines logoAmerican Airlines (AA) is sending recall notices to 460 former TWA flight attendants who had been furloughed soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The new recalls are in addition to the 200 flight attendants recalled earlier this year. This will be the fifth flight attendant recall by AA since 2003.

A statement about the latest recall on the AA website says that flight attendants who accept and meet all requirements will be eligible to return to service in either November or December 2007.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Air New Zealand may begin offering 'sleeping pods' for pax

Nathan AgnewThis is starting to sound like a trend: Last month I did a piece on Lufthansa's 'Sleepers Class' idea for economy passengers on long-haul flights. Now it looks as though Air New Zealand is considering something similar.

An article on the New Zealand news website Stuff reports that Air New Zealand is considering replacing cramped economy seats with 'sleeping pods' on its long-range aircraft. The article quotes Air New Zealand's strategic development general manager, Nathan Agnew, who said that the airline wants to introduce an entirely new type of economy cabin when it takes delivery of its fleet of Boeing 787-9 and 777-300ER long-range jets from 2010.

Referring to Cathay Pacific's planned introduction of economy seats that recline within a fixed shell, similar to business class seats, Mr. Agnew said, "We think that if you are going to do that concept why not push it to the next level, why stop there? We haven't even constrained ourselves to saying that it necessarily will be a seat. The other option is to give people a sleeping pod."

"We like it (the pod) as a concept. We are yet to evaluate whether practically it could be fitted out to an aircraft interior," Agnew said.

Cabin crew already sleep in pods during long distance flights, usually hidden away at the rear plane or in the ceiling space above the passenger cabin.

"Given that a lot of our long-haul flying is overnight, it might actually be preferable for our customers simply to have something like that rather than have a seat," Agnew said.

Because eating in a pod might be difficult, passengers may be served a meal at the airport before the flight, allowing them to immediately go to sleep once on the plane.

"We have some quite creative ways, at least conceptually, how this could work."
Mr. Agnew stressed that this idea is still a theoretical concept, not a done deed.

For more on what may be forthcoming for Air New Zealand, have a look at this Interview with Nathan Agnew in the New Zealand Herald.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Follow-up: Qantas F/A fired for 'stealing' is reinstated

Qantas logoBack in March of this year, I posted a story here about Philip Woodward-Brown, a Qantas flight attendant who was fired for allegedly taking nuts and other miscellaneous bits from a plane. Such a move on the part of Qantas seemed over the top, given the relatively innocuous nature of Mr. Woodward-Brown's offense, and I said so at the time.

It seems that others felt the same way, including officials at the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC).

After a hearing on the case, Lea Drake, senior deputy president of the AIRC said that although Mr Woodward-Brown had breached Qantas policy by his actions, she found the dismissal was "disproportionate to the gravity of the misconduct." According to a report on the Australian news website ninemsn.com, Drake ordered Qantas to reinstate Mr. Woodward-Brown and pay him for his accrued time between his termination last August and immediate re-hiring.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lufthansa's economy 'Sleepers Class' idea for long-haul routes

Get a load of this: German flag carrier Lufthansa is exploring the idea of an all-sleeper configuration for economy-class cabins on long-haul flights, according to an article on FlightGlobal.com. The airline reportedly has sent an email survey to some customers asking their opinion about this concept:

The airline has generated a conceptual image of the proposed ‘Sleepers Class’ cabin, showing a possible arrangement featuring fully lie-flat bunks stacked three-high in a herringbone layout on either side of the cabin, with additional berths in a wide central aisle.

Star Alliance member Lufthansa is considering the sleeper-cabin for specific intercontinental services – possibly overnight flights, such as those to Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and Shanghai – although the carrier says that it has not progressed to the stage of examining potential specific routes.

Under the scheme a passenger would opt to book a bed for the flight rather than a regular economy-class seat. It is unclear whether the beds would convert from a seating layout.

A spokeswoman for Lufthansa confirms that the airline is formally looking into the idea, and running a customer survey, although she adds: “Of course there’s no final decision yet. There are, as such, no certain plans whether or not to realise an idea like this.”
Looks sorta like an airborne bunkhouse or hostel to me. Would passengers like to be stowed on multiple layers like that? It might add a whole new dimension to all the jokes about pax as 'SLF' (Self-Loading Freight).

I have to admit that one of the first thoughts that popped into my head when I saw the photo was what the implications would be for an emergency evacuation. Other safety-related questions come to mind as well. Do the berths convert to upright seats for takeoff and landing? And what if a passenger fell from an upper berth during turbulence?

What do you think?

[Photo Source]