February 27, 2015
Dear Fellow Flight Attendants,
Amidst a great deal of activity within our union and our company, a global issue has gained attention in the media and in Washington. While the important work of implementing the JCBA and making the various necessary operational changes continues, I have directed the resources of APFA Government Affairs to focus on this issue and have allocated some of my office’s time and attention to the matter as well. Recently, the three major US-based carriers, including American, approached key policymakers and made the case that airlines in the Persian Gulf receive so much financial support from their governments that is virtually impossible to compete. For Flight Attendants, this issue is important not only because of the jobs it puts at risk, but because of the horrendous working conditions at the airlines that stand to gain those jobs. Having just completed a series of meetings on Capitol Hill during which I addressed our union’s concerns, I wanted to outline them for the membership:
- Over the past 14 years, the three major Gulf-based carriers have received more than $40 billion in free money from their governments. As a result, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways have grown at an incredible rate and now operate flights at eight of APFA’s base cities.
- The carriers operate with the complete support of their governments. In some cases, the same member of the royal family controls the airline, the regulator (their version of the FAA), the central bank, the airport authority, aircraft leasing companies, etc.
- The laws of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates prohibit collective bargaining, therefore, flight attendants at the three carriers cannot form a union.
- I have heard firsthand from Qatar Airways Flight Attendants about the appalling working conditions at their carrier. At last year’s annual conference of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), we were told that Flight Attendants must ask permission to marry or to have children. They live in locked and closely monitored dorms. They sign employment contracts but if for any reason they cannot complete them, i.e. they no longer meet appearance standards, they are forced to pay back the money they earned. If necessary, this requires working for free in other capacities.
- It is estimated that with every round-trip flight an American carrier loses to a Gulf carrier, more than 800 jobs are lost. For flight crews, this is unacceptable.
APFA worked very hard to put our company in a position to compete globally. I am confident in the new American’s product and business model and I believe we can go toe-to-toe with any carrier on the planet. However, I do not believe we can compete with the resources of oil-rich governments in the Gulf. Nor should we have to, considering the atrocious human and workers’ rights records of these countries. This is an issue that I believe we should all be on board with and I am proud that APFA is once again leading the way. We need to do whatever possible, through any means necessary, to ensure that the playing field is level and that Flight Attendants around the world are treated with the dignity and respect that professionals deserve. I am counting on the support of APFA’s membership.
For more information, please contact the APFA Government Affairs Representative Julie Frederick at email@example.com.
APFA National President