Delta will pay flight attendants during boarding amid union pressure

Flight attendants wearing protective masks pass through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

Elia Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Delta Airlines said it will begin paying flight attendants during boarding, a first for a major U.S. airline and an initiative that comes during a unionization campaign for the Atlanta-based airline’s largest working group.

Usually, flight attendants are paid after the boarding gates are closed.

Delta plans to begin boarding pay, half the flight attendant’s hourly rates, on June 2, according to a company statement. The carrier is also increasing boarding time for narrow-body flights to 40 minutes from 35, which the airline says is “one of several steps we are taking to add resilience to our operations.”

The salary changes were announced as a trade union campaign from the Association of Flight Attendants, which began at the end of 2019, is regaining vigor as the pandemic crisis for airlines subsides.

Delta’s 20,000+ flight attendants are non-syndicated, unlike other major US airlines.

“As we get closer to calling for votes for our union, management is getting nervous,” the AFA said in a statement. The organization is the largest flight attendant union in the country, representing cabin crews at United, Spirit, Hawaiian, Alaska Other borderamong others.

“In this case, they also know that changing the national boarding time from 35 to 40 minutes without adding an advantage would create an uproar, just like the ‘test’ did in Atlanta in October,” the AFA said.

The boarding pay is on top of the Increase of 4%. Delta announced its first annual employee increase since 2019 in March.