Flight attendants push for new contract at Phoenix Sky Harbor

By Jack Orleans/Cronkite News
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024 - 11:08am
Updated: Monday, February 19, 2024 - 2:59pm

Man holds signs reading "flight attendants save lives!"
Mariah Temprendola/Cronkite News
John Sas (right), a flight attendant for United Airlines, advocates for a new contract on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Dozens of flight attendants from several airlines walked out at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Tuesday. At Terminals 3 and 4, they chanted and demanded better pay and working conditions.

Because it was an educational demonstration and not a strike, there was no work stoppage, according to the media relations team at United Airlines. A Sky Harbor official also said there has been no impact to airport operations.

The Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transportation Workers Union of America are seeking updated union contracts.

The walkout in Phoenix is part of a larger wave across the country, with workers walking out at 30 airports, according to the unions.

“We’ve been at the negotiating table for over two years,” said Peter Coenen, a representative of AFA Council 9, which represents United Airlines flight attendants based in Phoenix and Denver. “We are demanding a fair and industry-leading contract with pay improvements, schedule flexibility and shorter work days.”

Man speaks into megaphone
Jack Orleans/Cronkite News
Peter Coenen, a representative of AFA Council 9, which represents United Airlines flight attendants at Phoenix and Denver, leads a demonstration at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.

Because of the Railway Labor Act, which also pertains to airlines, the contract dispute doesn’t involve a contract expiration like in other industries, according to Michael Massoni, first vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556. Massoni is also a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.

“The airlines have weaponized the RLA by dragging out the contract because they know it’s really hard to have a strike,” Massoni said.

According to Massoni, it’s been five years of fighting for a contract amendment and seeing pilots granted updated contracts during that time.

“We’re simply trying to reach out to management just to let them know, ‘Hey, enough is enough; we want a contract now,’” Coenen said. “It seems like management keeps stalling. Ultimately they have to negotiate a contract, there’s no escaping.”

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a corrected photo credit.

People holding signs line up outside with dog in middle
Mariah Temprendola/Cronkite News
Flight attendants walk out at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to advocate for better pay and working conditions on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.

People hold signs
Mariah Temprendola/Cronkite News
Flight attendants walk out at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to advocate for better pay and working conditions on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.

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