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No, most airlines don’t pay flight attendants during boarding

Delta Air Lines is set to become the first major U.S. airline to pay flight attendants during boarding. The airline says the change will start in June.

Delta Air Lines made headlines in late April when the company announced its plans to start paying flight attendants during the time that passengers are boarding a plane. The rate of pay during boarding will be 50% of regular wages, and Delta said the change will take effect in June. 

The change comes as Delta plans to increase the boarding time for single-aisle planes from 35 minutes to 40 minutes, which the airline said it expects will help more flights depart on time. Kristen Manion Taylor, Delta’s senior vice president of in-flight service, said she promised not to impose the new boarding times without providing additional pay for the cabin crews. 

Following Delta’s announcement, some social media users (here, here, here and here) said they thought flight attendants were already paid during boarding. 

THE QUESTION

Do most airlines pay flight attendants during the time that passengers are boarding? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, most airlines don’t pay flight attendants during the time that passengers are boarding.

WHAT WE FOUND

Across the airline industry in the U.S., hourly pay for flight attendants starts when all of the passengers onboard are seated and the plane’s doors close.

Union contracts for flight attendants at American, United and Southwest airlines base flight attendants’ hourly pay on flight time or “block time,” which is the moment when the plane leaves the gate until it arrives at its destination and stops at the gate. This means flight attendants are not being paid their hourly rate during boarding or when passengers are disembarking, including when a flight is delayed. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, full-time flight attendants, who typically fly around 75 to 100 hours a month, are paid around $62,000 per year. They also receive a small “per diem” based on the entire time they’re on duty, which is about $2 or $3 an hour to help pay for meals.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which is attempting to unionize Delta’s workers, took credit for the airline’s new policy in an April 25 press release.

“This new policy is the direct result of our organizing,” the union said in a statement posted on its website. “As we get closer to filing for our union vote, management is getting nervous.”

There’s also an ongoing online petition with nearly 200,000 signatures demanding all airlines pay crew while boarding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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