United Airlines flight attendants launch protest over downsizing of international crews

United Airlines jets parked at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 2014. United flight attendants are protesting the airline's proposal to reduce the number of flight attendants assigned to wide-body international flights from 11 to 10.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

To voice their frustration over proposed staffing changes, United Airlines flight attendants launched noisy protests Thursday at airports around the world, including Los Angeles International Airport.

The Assn. of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, organized the picketing campaign to protest the airline’s move to remove one flight attendant from most of its long-haul international flights.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, United’s greed has got to go,” chanted dozens of flight attendants at terminals 7 and 8 at LAX. They waved signs that read, “We are an airline. Not a hedge fund.”


Under the change, United Airlines’ wide-body international flights will operate with 10 flight attendants starting in February, down from the current 11. The flight attendants removed from those flights won’t be fired but will be reassigned to other flights, airline representatives said.

United defended the change, saying the move won’t harm customer service and is meant to align United’s staffing levels with those of its rivals, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

United said flight attendants’ duties on those flights will be lessened because meals for business class passengers will be “preplated” before takeoff.

But union leaders say the staffing reductions leave more work for the remaining flight crew and reduces opportunities for flight attendants to work on the higher-paying international routes.

The flight attendants said they organized protests at 16 airports around the world, including Washington, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Frankfurt, Germany.


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