APFA stands for the rights of Flight Attendants all over the world. It is incumbent upon our organization, as the largest independent union in the global aviation industry, to do everything possible to advance our profession. To that end, APFA has seized on an opportunity to shine a light on the abuses suffered by our brothers and sisters at Gulf carriers. As a member of the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, APFA has been engaged in an effort to address the staggering subsidies Gulf-based airlines receive from their governments, a practice which violates Open Skies Agreements and puts American carriers at a competitive disadvantage. In addition to crucial economic arguments, such as the fact that the unfair competition put tens of thousands of US jobs in jeopardy, APFA has been pressing the issue of human rights abuses at the Gulf carriers.
Not only do they threaten the viability of our company, but Etihad Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways treat their flight crews in a manner that reminds us of the earliest days of commercial aviation. The abuses are well-documented and APFA reps have heard details firsthand. Discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, weight, and pregnancy are rampant. Flight Attendants are often forced to live in secure compounds and personal travel is extremely restricted. Indeed, some live as indentured servants. To make matters worse, there is little recourse for these Flight Attendants due to laws in Qatar and the UAE that forbid labor unions.
As APFA fights to address these abuses, we must also pause for self-examination. Globalization and consolidation in our industry has brought virtually all major carriers around the world together for the sake of marketing and strengthening their networks. As a member of the Oneworld alliance, American finds itself partnering with Qatar Airways, one of the notorious violators. Other global alliances link US carriers with unsavory operators in the Middle East and other parts of the world as well. It is indeed a very tangled web. However, we must do whatever possible to untangle it and distance ourselves from those airlines that do not share our values.
APFA has made our concerns very clear to our management team. We have asked the company to re-evaluate our company’s relationship with Qatar Airways. As the only North American-based member of Oneworld, American Airlines has significant influence within the organization. It is our hope and expectation that the company will use that power to support APFA’s efforts to bring equality to the Flight Attendants at Qatar Airways.