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TravelAmerican Airlines flight attendants move closer to strike as Alaska reaches deal

American Airlines flight attendants move closer to strike as Alaska reaches deal

Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines reached a preliminary deal with the airline for a new contract on Friday, while cabin crew at American Airlines inched closer to a summertime strike.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union, which covers the work group at Alaska, said on Friday that the bargaining group had reached a tentative agreement with the airline under federal mediation. Details of the contract have not been publicly released, and the agreement still must be ratified by the union’s leadership and general membership.

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Nevertheless, the agreement seemed likely to avert the threat of a strike, which the flight attendants’ union had been invoking as negotiations appeared likely to stall earlier this month.

The American Airlines flight attendants’ union, on the other hand, said late last week that talks with the airline had broken down without a deal and that the union was making preparations for a strike.

“American Airlines did not come to the table with an agreement that adequately compensates American’s 28,000 flight attendants,” Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) President Julie Hedrick said in a statement.

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American, however, told TPG that negotiators had made significant progress in the last week, “adding even more to the industry-leading proposal we’ve had on the table for months.”

“We look forward to continuing negotiations so our flight attendants can benefit from the contract they deserve,” the airline added in a statement. “This agreement is within reach and we look forward to additional [negotiating] dates being scheduled.”

The union asked to be released from federal mediation, which would trigger a 30-day “cooling-off” period before any strike could begin. The release has not been granted, and there has been no public indication of whether it would be — and, if it is, when that would happen — so the timing of a potential strike is unclear.

Even after the cooling-off period, the federal government could block a strike under the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations in the railroad and airline industries based on the government’s authority over interstate commerce. The union could also choose to postpone a strike or use other tactics after the cooling-off period ends.

It seems likely that the airline and union will try to avoid a work stoppage. American has been trying to regain customer loyalty after backing away from a broadly unsuccessful distribution strategy, which led some corporate customers and others to book with competitors instead. The airline is trailing United and Delta on financial performance, and recently lowered its projections for the current quarter after announcing the departure of Vasu Raja, its chief commercial officer. A strike, particularly during the summer travel season, would be devastating as the airline touts reliability in its effort to woo passengers.

The Biden administration could block a flight attendant strike, as it did ahead of a looming railroad workers strike in late 2022. While the administration would likely not want to alienate organized labor groups ahead of this fall’s election, it is also likely keen to avoid the scenes of chaos that would accompany summer air travel disruption during a strike.

Flight attendants at United Airlines are also in the process of contract negotiations.


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