United Airlines flight attendants picketed and passed out leaflets Thursday at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as part of a systemwide day of action.
The action, conducted by members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, took place from 11 a.m. to noon in front of the United check-in lobby.
The flight attendants are asking management to increase staffing and stop planned staffing and service cuts. They also want management to fix payroll issues and ensure flight attendants have access to hotels in the event of severe weather and irregular operations.
Honolulu was just one of the 16 major airports, including Hong Kong; Frankfurt, Germany; San Francisco; Chicago; Houston; and Newark, N.J., where the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA conducted picketing and passed out leaflets.
The labor action is in response to United’s announcement last month that it planned to cut a flight attendant position from most international flights.
United did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the carrier previously has said that pre-plating meals for business-class passengers on the ground has made the cut possible.
United, which has been flying to Hawaii for 70 years, added 11 new routes and 363,522 seats to the neighbor islands between 2017 and 2018. With the increase in service, United’s Hawaii business this year will include roughly 11,985 flights with 2.63 million seats.
Kevin Batey, Kailua-based Local Executive Council president of United Airlines Council 14, said the decision means there will be fewer trained crew members to respond to emergencies on flights, boarding will be slower and customer service will decline.
“It was the last straw,” Batey said while participating in the Honolulu action. “We’re hoping United Airlines will come to their senses. Now is not the time to cut service. The company has taken some service hits, and we want our company to succeed.”
Batey said the Honolulu labor action is the first since the local union and the company reached agreement on a new contract in September 2016. Eight months of monthly informational picketing preceded ratification of that agreement, which Batey said will expire in 2021.
“We start contract negotiations again next year,” he said. “If this issue isn’t resolved, we could see more informational picketing.”
Ken Diaz, president of AFA’s United Master Executive Council, said in a statement, “Instead of leading U.S. carriers and distinguishing United Airlines with superior safety and enhanced customer service, the airline is lowering its standards to follow American and Delta. This is not the way to say we love our passengers.”
“Catering on the ground is not a substitute for first responders in the sky,” said Diaz, who represents 24,000 flight attendants of the 50,000 AFA members at 20 airlines, including United.