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American Airlines Flight Attendants Request Permission to Strike

A second airline union group has signaled their seriousness about a walkout this holiday season

By Amy Durham

American Airlines airplanes are lined up at adjacent gates as another airplane taxis past them.
American Airlines airplanes | | Courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines flight attendants are requesting federal permission to initiate a strike, potentially coinciding with the peak holiday travel season. Monday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) formally petitioned the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse in the negotiations.

Union leaders expressed frustration over stalled negotiations for a new contract, pointing to the absence of salary increases since 2019 and success recently for other airline union groups. Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants secured a retroactive 20% raise and American Airlines’ pilots receiving a significant wage increase as well.

American Airlines flight attendants walk through an entrance with suitcases.
American Airlines flight attendants | | Courtesy of American Airlines

The flight attendants’ union seeks an immediate 35% raise and subsequent annual 6% increments across a three-year period, contrasting with American’s offer of an 11% upfront raise, potentially rising to 18% with increased boarding pay, followed by annual 2% increments. Additionally, the union advocates for larger 401(k) contributions and extended rest periods.

American Airlines contests the flight attendants’ union’s claim of negotiation deadlock, asserting months of offering what they term an “industry-leading economic proposal” alongside ongoing progress on other contract elements. The airline is open to continued collaboration with the union and the National Mediation Board to secure an agreement.

A Southwest Airlines pilot enters a blue airplane doorway and touches the heart logo for Southwest Airlines on his way inside.
Southwest Airlines pilot enters an airplane | | Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

As American Airlines flight attendants picketed outside company headquarters, Southwest Airlines pilots have established a strike center in Dallas, signaling their intent to request strike rights if an agreement isn’t reached with the airline imminently. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association anticipates the potential for a strike on Dec. 29, as indicated by a countdown clock in the strike center.

American Airlines firmly denies any chance of a holiday walkout, but the chance does remain if the impasse is declared in the next few days. The strike would then follow a mandatory 30-day cooling-off period. However, the likelihood of either union initiating a strike remains uncertain because federal law imposes significant barriers for airline employees to strike or for carriers to impose lockouts. Even if the mediators declare the negotiations at an impasse, any potential strike action is subject to intervention by the president or Congress to prevent economic harm to the country.