Published On: Sat, Oct 17th, 2015

Flight attendant union leaders honor US Airways history on last flight

285In advance of the final flight of US Airways, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) lauded the decades of service of tens of thousands of flight attendants who flew under the colors of US Airways and its historical ancestors.

“To honor our career pioneers and those Flight Attendants working today as commercial aviation’s First Responders, we should take this moment in history to reflect on the accomplishments of the professionals who made up the mosaic of airlines that became US Airways,” said Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).

To honor the legacy of US Airways and the Flight Attendants responsible for that legacy, Nelson and AFA’s Vice President Debora Sutor will fly as passengers on the red eye tonight from San Francisco to Philadelphia.

Nelson commented on the rich history of AFA member US Airways Flight Attendants, and what their achievements have meant for the airline and the Flight Attendant profession on the whole:

“Safety, health and security advancements are central to the history of US Airways and the Flight Attendants who served as first responders in the cabin. The survival of the airline was in question after experiencing five major accidents in five years from September 1989 to September 1994. The primary role of Flight Attendants as aviation’s first responders was cemented by heroic actions that included returning to burning aircraft again and again to pull passengers to safety. Still, the airline had to prove it could operate without incident. In 1994 unions and management formed a team to focus on safety at the airline and regain the public trust – and together they saved the airline and won public trust. The next critical incident was fifteen years later as the country watched what was called the ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ a result of focus on safety and the professionals who made it happen.

“Through seven mergers US Airways Flight Attendants helped set the industry’s gold standard for seniority integration, utilizing a date-of-hire process for each of those mergers. This became union policy for AFA and it is the process utilized for seniority integration in the recent mega-mergers at Delta, American and United.

“In 1958, Mohawk Airlines became the first airline to hire an African American Flight Attendant. Our Mohawk colleague left us just six months later, another victim of the no-marriage rule that the union eventually defeated. America West Flight Attendants formed a union to end cross-utilization of ground crew, customer service agents and flight attendants during corporate bankruptcy. Lake Central Airlines was the first employee-owned airline.

“When Allegheny and Mohawk merged in 1972 to form what became USAir, AFA was there to push for protections from job security to pay, moving expenses and seniority. These protections became the standard for over one hundred thousand airline workers who were cushioned from the worst effects of mergers in post-deregulation. AFA negotiated these protections into the US Airways contract and Flight Attendants have experienced job security for over four decades because of it. In subsequent mergers, with Piedmont Airlines, Pacific Southwest Airlines, the US Airways Shuttle, America West and others, AFA was always there to protect Flight Attendant seniority and contracts. And the AFA members of US Airways stood together even in a series of bankruptcies where Flight Attendants worked hard and helped ensure the survival of the airline.

“Decades of collective bargaining built the US Airways Flight Attendant contract into one of the premier agreements for our profession. Time after time the US Airways Flight Attendants achieved important ‘firsts’ at the bargaining table, helping to move our entire profession forward. The Flight Attendant union navigated through all the twists and turns of one of the industry’s truly great airlines.

“US Airways has had a long and proud history, and AFA is proud to have represented US Airways Flight Attendants at every step along the way. That legacy will remain part of AFA history, and part of Flight Attendant history, forever.”