Did you know that Flight Attendants are required to work for free?

Melissa Balick

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

A flight attendant acquaintance friend of mine recently told me something that shocked me.

Did you know that flight attendants are required to work lots of time without pay?

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Airlines such as American, United, and Delta pay flight attendants an hourly wage, but only for the time between when the main door to the aircraft closes until it’s opened again. There are different payment systems, but this is a common one for large airlines in the US. Learn more about how different airlines pay flight attendants here.

Hourly wage flight attendants have to arrive, wearing their uniforms, an hour and a half before the plane takes off. During that time, they do safety checks, prepare the aircraft, and board the passengers. All for free.

Do you ever see flight attendants appearing anxious as their flight’s boarding is delayed? I have. They’re not anxious because they’re worried you’ll miss your connecting flight. They’re anxious because, though they’re required to be at work, they’re not making a cent.

Then, once you land, their pay ends even though they still have to get everyone out of the plane (including passengers in wheelchairs), clean the plane, and do safety checks. All for no compensation.

That’s messed up, don’t you think?

How did their union allow this?

Flight attendants are unionized. They have their own union within the AFL-CIO, The Association of Flight Attendants. They’re the ones who negotiate the contracts with the airlines for how flight attendants are paid.

My question is, how could they allow such a thing as straight-up unpaid working time?

I don’t have the answer to that question. I just know, it sounds wholly unacceptable to me.

I don’t want to place the blame on the union entirely because, obviously, they’re only 1/2 of who is negotiating these contracts. The other half is the airlines. The airlines are the ones with the true power to, you know, pay their flight attendants.

Everyone who cares about workers should let these airlines know

The union isn’t who customers need to pressure. That’s the job of flight attendants, to let their union know what they want. As customers, it’s our job to tell the airlines we believe flight attendants should be paid for all the time they work.

Let American, Delta, and United know what you think. Tweet at them if you’re a tweeter. Social media, because it can be seen by the public, seems to have a greater impact than contacting these companies privately by email or phone.

Here are links to each of their Twitter handles:




In the meantime, don’t fly with them because, seriously, how is this their standard practice? How can they possibly think not paying flight attendants for all their time worked is okay?

It's not okay. It’s totally messed up!

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As an Oaklander by way of Philly, you can expect West Coast progressiveness delivered to you with East Coast bluntness. A fiction writer published in various literary magazines, this is where I deliver rational, even-handed news and opinions.

Oakland, CA

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