Feb 14, 2024 - News

Flight attendants picket Cleveland Hopkins amid contract negotiations

Flight attendants standing in line on sidewalk near CLE, holding yellow protest signs.

Flight attendants picket outside Hopkins in October. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Dozens of flight attendants, pilots and other airline workers picketed outside Cleveland Hopkins International Airport yesterday as part of a nationwide demonstration over pay and working conditions amid ongoing contract negotiations.

The big picture: They joined picketers at nearly 30 airports nationwide from unions representing 100,000 flight attendants for Alaska, United, American, Southwest and other airlines.

What they're saying: "We are not a line item on a balance sheet," Melinda Beal, president of the Association of Flight Attendants local chapter, told Axios.

  • She said attendants have been forced to work longer hours with little rest between shifts, while wages have eroded due to inflation and airlines rake in billions in profits.
  • They're asking for raises and are challenging the pay structure.

Of note: These demonstrations are not strikes, though that's the next step.

Between the lines: The industry norm is that attendants don't get paid until the plane doors close, Axios' Kate Murphy reports.

  • Union members say they aren't fully compensated for their work during boarding or deplaning, nor for time on the ground between back-to-back flights.
  • However, Alaska Air, for example, said in a statement that flight attendants are paid for boarding time "through a pay mechanism that was negotiated with the union in previous contract cycles."
  • In 2022, Delta Air Lines became the first U.S. airline to pay flight attendants during boarding — at half their standard rate.

The other side: Airlines say they're working with unions on agreements after Alaska Air said it made an offer that would put their flight attendants at or near the top of the industry.

Flashback: AFA flight attendants previously picketed at Hopkins in the fall as part of an effort to pressure the airlines.

Zoom in: Cuyahoga County prosecutor candidate Matthew Ahn marched with demonstrators Tuesday.

  • "Strong unions, high wages and strong protections are crime prevention," he told Axios.

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