Flight attendants face “most hostile environment” ever: union leader


Nearly 2 million passengers pass through airport security every day, and U.S. airline flight attendants are facing more unruly passengers tired by the pandemic.

The flight attendants “think about not having slept, the length of the days, the influx of flights, the failure of the operation and whether this is the day when they could receive a punch in the face, “Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told Yahoo Finance Live.

A recent survey of 5,000 flight attendants found that 85% of them had to deal with misbehaving passengers and one in five said “they had experienced a physical incident”.

“It’s the most hostile environment we’ve ever faced. And I want to be very clear, it’s a small group of people, but they’ve been emboldened and become more common than ever,” Nelson said. .

Second quarter earnings reports from airlines like Delta Air Lines (DAL), Southwest Airlines (LUV) and United Airlines (UAL) all referred to a post COVID-19 rebound in demand for leisure travel which, in some cases is greater than 2019. “Nobody I thought it would come back like this,” Nelson said.

But airlines, which have increased their capacity to meet demand, are scrambling to hire employees. Delta needs 5,000 workers, United plans to hire 25,000 by 2026 and Southwest is offering bonuses worth $ 300 to employees who recruit new employees.

“We will be working with a minimum of staff, we will be working with longer days, generally shorter nights, because there are fewer flights to schedule us efficiently,” said Nelson.

“Everyone is fed up”

The Federal Aviation Administration says fines for unruly passengers now exceed $ 1 million. According to a press release from the agency, the FAA “has received approximately 3,889 reports of unruly passenger behavior, including approximately 2,867 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate”, since the start of the year.

“Everyone is fed up,” Nelson said, referring to the pandemic. “Passengers don’t like to wear this mask for a few hours when on a flight. Think flight attendants [who] going to work every day wearing it for 14 and 15 hours. She stressed that attendants must enforce safety rules, but some passengers do not.

Passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight recently helped a flight attendant stick a man in his seat after groping two flight attendants. After the incident, United Airlines sent a note to its staff to avoid using restraint tape, but Nelson called the note further insult. While “the retainer tape is the only constraint for some other airlines, United decided to remove the retainer tape from aircraft in 2014,” she said.

“I think it was incredibly disrespectful of United Airlines to send that memo,” because he hasn’t been on United planes for seven years, Nelson said. “From what I understand, it was written by marketing, trying to get a head start on their competition. And I think it really backfired because the audience is saying : listen, we don’t want to take any tools away from flight attendants. if that’s gonna keep the rest of us safe. “

Nelson said airline workers were on a “roller coaster ride” during the ups and downs of the pandemic. The current rise in new COVID-19 infections adds to the predicament. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have informed airlines that the mandate for the mandatory mask will be extended after the September 13 expiration through January 18. Nelson supports the extension.

“The way to end it is to get everyone vaccinated. And in the meantime, stop the spread by wearing these masks when you are in a confined space with other people,” she said.

Adam Shapiro is co-presenter of Yahoo Finance Live from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @Ajshaps

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