Future of Cabin Crew behind BA row

jimntx

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Found this article at BBC.com while following a link about the LH pilots strike. It goes to the basic philosophy of what flight attendants are for. From the beginnings of the commercial airline business until the late 1950's or even the 1960's, cabin crew (on U.S. airlines) were expected to be young, female, unmarried, height/weight proportionate and easily replaced. The job paid next to nothing, and in return "stewardesses" got to travel around the world for a few years and stay in some pretty exotic places for a girl from Wichita Falls, TX or North Tonawanda, NY.

In the various human rights campaigns of the 60's and 70's, unions brought civil rights to bear upon the sex, age, and height/weight restrictions of the past, and the modern flight attendant career was born. Now, we are brought to major airlines, such as British Airways which is noted first and foremost for it's on-board service, saying publicly that they are fighting for their financial survival and can no longer afford to pay cabin crew the amounts being currently paid, (and I suspect the number of cabin crew is also under dispute. BA has never flown with "minimum" crew AFAIK).

According the article, the average BA flight attendant makes 29,900 pounds/yr (approx. $45,000/yr.), and a senior crew director (purser/onboard service leader/etc) on long haul flights makes 60,000 pounds/yr (approx. $89,000/yr). Remember, if these dollars are averages there are a number of people making both more and less.

Article at BBC.com

Now, here's what I would like to see discussed...
Have we, in fact, reached a point where we (I'm a flight attendant) have priced ourselves out of the market? We are notorious, particularly at my airline (AA), for resisting anything that would increase our measured productivity. Demanding increased pay for increased productivity defeats the purpose. (And, we all know flight attendants who think that simply being present on the airplane is all they should be expected to do for $40+/hr. "No, I don't hang coats." "No, I don't help passengers find a place for their bags." "No, I don't do pre-departures in First Class." "You should change that flying time from 3hr22min to 2hr59min so we don't have to do a 2nd service." "I took a paycut in 2003." (or whenever it happened at your airline)).

Now, this next is going to cause a firestorm probably, but...from my years as a business consultant, the job of the flight attendant is what is called an entry level job. It requires minimum education (HS diploma or GED) and minimum training (AA's training is 5.5 weeks IIRC). School teacher which pays less than $30,000/yr to start requires a 4 year college degree and continuing education after employment until at least the receipt of a master's degree. My sister who had a Master's degree and taught for 25 years never made as much as the average BA flight attendant ($45,000/yr). I know all about the "I'm a safety professional" argument. (Personally, I hope that the day I retire I can say "all that stuff we did at recurrent training was a total waste of time. I never needed any of it." :lol:)

The #1 flight attendant at AA has over 50 years. Ask yourself (assuming you are a flight attendant), is there anything she does on the job that you can not do? What other job do you know of where someone goes to work with minimum education and minimum training, is still doing the same job 50 years later, but feels the right to demand increases in pay that exceed those of people with much greater job requirements?

If you just want to rant about executive bonuses, or use them as an excuse to say that we "deserve" higher pay, don't bother. (You can't be more outraged about them than I.) If you are one of those passengers who think that flight attendants are nothing more than smartly-uniformed Denny's wait staff, please pass on by. If you want to accuse me of being a traitor to the flight attendant "profession", you're too late. It's been done already.

I know that at my airline, we are overstaffed right now. I'm on what is called availability (sort of glorified reserve). I am guaranteed 70 hours/month of flight pay. I flew 42 hours in March (I have the rest of the month off), and that was only because I aggressively went after the few available trips in open time. I could have sat at home and done nothing, and waited for crew schedule to call me and assign me a trip. (And, if they don't call between 12noon and 2pm the day before, I am released for the next day, but still get paid guarantee.) I have done some research and found that this situation is true in just about every AA domestic base. People are sitting around not flying, but still getting paid. And, since there are no active flight attendants right now with less than 7 years pay seniority, the minimum being paid for not flying is $35/hr. (And, I am very much aware that the only reason I'm not on furlough right now is my union negotiated an agreement with the company that there would be no more furloughs until at least 31AUG this year. If things don't change soon, I 'speck I'm toast come 01SEP10.)

What company do we expect to stay in business if it continues to pay large segments of its staff for not working?

I'm hoping we can have a serious discussion. If not, I will ask the moderators to close the thread. Fire away.
 

Veritas

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Now, this next is going to cause a firestorm probably, but...from my years as a business consultant, the job of the flight attendant is what is called an entry level job. It requires minimum education (HS diploma or GED) and minimum training (AA's training is 5.5 weeks IIRC). School teacher which pays less than $30,000/yr to start requires a 4 year college degree and continuing education after employment until at least the receipt of a master's degree. My sister who had a Master's degree and taught for 25 years never made as much as the average BA flight attendant ($45,000/yr).
I have no idea where your sister lives or works, but I suspect it is not in the UK. To make your argument valid, you need to compare British flight attendants earnings with those of British teachers.

BTW, I know many American teachers with your sister's qualifications who earn considerably more than 45K a year.
 
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jimntx

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Oh, please. Teacher salaries are not the point. The point is what flight attendants are paid versus what they do. I was just using my sister as an example. And, yes I also know teachers who make more than she did, and they live in cities where their $70,000/yr doesn't go anywhere near as far as $45,000/yr goes where she lives.

It still begs the question of should someone be paid increasingly more for doing basically the same job they've always done (and in a lot of cases less than they used to do) simply because they neither quit nor died? We don't even serve meals in coach now, and for some of them they started with hand running meal trays to ALL passengers two at a time while wearing 3 inch heels and a girdle. Now, that's work (or so I've heard. I've never had to wear a girdle or 3 inch heels. :lol: ).

For that matter, should the job of flight attendant be a lifetime career anyway? I came to it as a fun diversion after years of working in the Information Technology and consulting field. I'm not saying that you can't make the choice to do just flight attendant for all your working life, but should you be financially rewarded for hanging on to an entry level job?
 

goodgirl37

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Jul 24, 2005
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Oh, please. Teacher salaries are not the point. The point is what flight attendants are paid versus what they do. I was just using my sister as an example. And, yes I also know teachers who make more than she did, and they live in cities where their $70,000/yr doesn't go anywhere near as far as $45,000/yr goes where she lives.

It still begs the question of should someone be paid increasingly more for doing basically the same job they've always done (and in a lot of cases less than they used to do) simply because they neither quit nor died? We don't even serve meals in coach now, and for some of them they started with hand running meal trays to ALL passengers two at a time while wearing 3 inch heels and a girdle. Now, that's work (or so I've heard. I've never had to wear a girdle or 3 inch heels. :lol: ).

For that matter, should the job of flight attendant be a lifetime career anyway? I came to it as a fun diversion after years of working in the Information Technology and consulting field. I'm not saying that you can't make the choice to do just flight attendant for all your working life, but should you be financially rewarded for hanging on to an entry level job?


Why dont you take the number of hours a flight attendant works, their duty days, and divide their salary by that number, we make pennies compared to most. My friend who is a Public school teacher in Boston, and he is 31 years old, makes 65k... Gets all holidays and breaks off and works till 3pm.
 
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jimntx

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But, you are just adding to my side of the argument. If you are working for pennies, why would any sane person do the job for more than just long enough to get the travel bug out of their system? Or, as a later in life "extra" career as in my case? (I can't tell you how many times I have said that I am grateful that I don't have to fly high time in order to survive as so many flight attendants do.)

Let's review...it's an entry level job requiring minimum education and training--plus a once a year refresher on the safety part of the job. Probably one day additional training if the company takes on new a/c. In some airlines, exist on straight reserve for years before having any semblance of a normal life. Again, why would any sane person do this for even 20 years, much less 40 or 50?

And, yet flight attendants see no problem in demanding increasingly higher pay for doing basically the exact same job they were doing when they started 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. (In some business school philosophies, staying in the same job for more than a few years would be viewed as a distinct lack of ambition.) Only some of the details change--manual safety demos, then learning how to operate the video equipment to play the recorded safety demo.

In what other job in what other industry would you expect advancement in pay unless you learned a new skill, demonstrated the ability to lead, had a unique skill needed by the company, got promoted (and, don't think for a second that I think moving down to f/a supervisor is a promotion).

Oh, ask your friend in Boston what he pays in rent? How much does he get paid for spending his entire summer in the continuing education programs he has to take in order to keep his job? Yes, we can all point to a school system or two that actually pays teachers a decent salary, and they are almost always in horribly high cost areas of the country.

I have a beautiful home in a gorgeous section of Dallas. I would not be able to afford a comparable house in New York, Boston, or most anywhere on the West Coast, and that's after the collapse of housing prices. Yes, your friend makes $65k in Boston. I would doubt seriously that he lives as well as someone making $40k in Dallas. Here again, teahers' pay is not really the issue.
 

mweiss

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It's never been popular when I've said pretty much what you've said, Jim.

I'm sympathetic to the larger discussion of whether we should all be guaranteed a living wage (though that simple concept has Costco-sized cans of worms around the meaning of "guarantee" and/or "living wage"). There are hidden social costs associated with low pay. But in the absence of a social contract that puts income on the same footing as, say, free speech, or even healthcare, this larger discussion quickly resembles arguing over the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

So, are f/as paid too much? As one who believes in the wisdom of a well-regulated free market, I'd respond with a qualified yes. The reason is simple: at the current pay structure, the supply of potential f/as is greater than the demand for them.

That said, as I noted above my answer is a qualified yes. Drop compensation too much and churn rises to the point where the airline has quality issues and increased training costs. The former can impact revenue, while the latter naturally increases cost. Therefore, the profit margin as a function of f/a compensation should be shaped like an inverted U.

Right now, it seems that most of the industry is sitting on the right hand side of that inverted U.
 
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jimntx

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One of the unspoken issues in my mind is that the job of flight attendant maybe should go back to what it once was with a minor alteration...a job that someone does for a few years after high school or college to travel around and see other parts of the country or the world then move on to a "real" job. The minor alteration being to allow for people like me who have had "real" careers and want to do something different for the last few years before retirement, but are not totally dependent upon the pay.

Don't get me wrong. I am perfectly willing for people to choose to do the job for 30-40 years if that is what they want, but should they be paid $40 or $50 per hour for an entry level job? And, be allowed to whine about the poor retirement benefits that prevent them from retiring? No pension plan nor Social Security itself was ever intended to be your sole source of income in retirement, and if you have not saved anything toward retirement, that is not the airline's or the government's fault. Don't whine to me about the "low pay and pitiful retirement benefits" when you have spent every dime you made shopping at the most expensive stores in Europe.
 

mweiss

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OK, I get your point. But in your previous career did you not frequently hear coworkers complaining about not being paid enough? I suspect you'll find many CEOs at the Fortune 500 who don't feel that their compensation adequately addresses their value...even as they drive their companies to the ground.

All I'm saying is this phenomenon is hardly unique to flight attendants. I've been overpaid, and yet often felt I should be paid more at the same time.
 
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jimntx

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OK, I get your point. But in your previous career did you not frequently hear coworkers complaining about not being paid enough? I suspect you'll find many CEOs at the Fortune 500 who don't feel that their compensation adequately addresses their value...even as they drive their companies to the ground.

All I'm saying is this phenomenon is hardly unique to flight attendants. I've been overpaid, and yet often felt I should be paid more at the same time.

Yes, I heard coworkers complain about not being paid enough in all 4 of my previous careers. BUT, I knew no one in any of those careers who had been with the company more than a couple of years who was still doing the same job with the same job title, who refused to move up in the company, or take on additional responsibility when asked.

(I take that back. During my first career as an actor (a glamorous way of saying I was a waiter during most of those years), in the restaurant business all of the waiters--some of whom had been waiters for years--complained about not making enough money. However, none of us blamed the restaurant because we weren't working for the $0.80/hr the restaurant paid. We were working for the tips. We considered the restaurant pay an annoyance because you had to go get the glorious $28 paycheck (after deductions) cashed. The restaurants wouldn't cash the paychecks they issued.)

To my mind there is a vast difference between the case of a 40 year flight attendant and a 40 year office worker. Granted there would probably be a point at which the office worker would cease to move up in the company as the upward mobility path became narrower, but no one would still be doing the exact same job they were doing when they started. Even a secretary would improve his/her skills by moving from the typewriter and steno pad to the word processor and the dictation machine to the computer.
 

nbmcg01

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Yes, I heard coworkers complain about not being paid enough in all 4 of my previous careers. BUT, I knew no one in any of those careers who had been with the company more than a couple of years who was still doing the same job with the same job title, who refused to move up in the company, or take on additional responsibility when asked.

(I take that back. During my first career as an actor (a glamorous way of saying I was a waiter during most of those years), in the restaurant business all of the waiters--some of whom had been waiters for years--complained about not making enough money. However, none of us blamed the restaurant because we weren't working for the $0.80/hr the restaurant paid. We were working for the tips. We considered the restaurant pay an annoyance because you had to go get the glorious $28 paycheck (after deductions) cashed. The restaurants wouldn't cash the paychecks they issued.)

To my mind there is a vast difference between the case of a 40 year flight attendant and a 40 year office worker. Granted there would probably be a point at which the office worker would cease to move up in the company as the upward mobility path became narrower, but no one would still be doing the exact same job they were doing when they started. Even a secretary would improve his/her skills by moving from the typewriter and steno pad to the word processor and the dictation machine to the computer.

Unfortunately in the airline industry there is very little movement for the f/a. FSMs? Traditionally, those jobs attract persons wanting a nine to five job or not well "admired" for their f/a job performance. As one who very proudly turned a short time venture into a career, I respectfully disagree.
 

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