Sunday, 29 July 2007

Are airlines paying fair?

Further to my previous article relating to poor pay for cabin crew, Sara Nelson who has worked 11 years for United Airlines had to sell her car in order to afford living costs.

Sara believes her pay has come down at least 30% and although has to do without the luxury of a car she does have longer hours and the addition of more broken lavatories to deal with!

"It seems more and more that one or two lavatories are shut down," said Nelson, who is also a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants union.

With on-board staffing reduced, "There are fewer people to look out for the problems and try to head them off from the get go," she said.

Tensions are riding high as cabin crew have to cope with more and more difficult conditions that the airlines are imposing on them.

Flight attendants are starting to actually resemble prisoners as a result of tighter security restrictions, faster turnaround times and congested planes without being provided adequate food and more importantly more pay.

"You have more people getting off, more people getting on, so the expectation is you basically don't get off the plane," Carla Rogat of Mesaba Airlines said.

"You can work a 14-hour day and get off the plane for 20 minutes,"

Contrary to what people may think, when aircraft are still waiting at the gate due to lengthy delays cabin crew aren’t actually being paid whilst the plane is standing still. It’s only when the plane leaves the gate that crew are being paid, so in effect they are working for free while the aircraft is stationary.

"I can work a 14-hour day and get paid for five of it," said Rogat.
The average salary of US flight attendants can be between $US19,200 and $US33,800 but many stay within this employment for the travel benefits and flexibility.

"I still really do love the job," said Alin Boswell, an 18-year veteran of US Airways Group Inc.

Airlines have in the past promised to ease stress put upon cabin crew but such actions have remained under the belt.

"We have taken a number of steps to improve the quality of life and scheduling flexibility for our flight attendants," said United Airlines spokeswoman Jean Medina.

"People are very, very upset. They've been stretched to the end," said Nelson. "They were stretched to the end before, but at least there was a promise of something better. Now when that hasn't been returned, it's as if the rubber band was broken."

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