Some United Airlines flight attendants are being accused of selling desirable flights they’re scheduled to work to other flight attendants. The union employees who participate in this route “brokering” in question face severe consequences, including termination, if found guilty.
United Airlines flight attendant’s roster
United Airlines, along with the majority of other carriers, determine flight attendant’s schedules and routes based on seniority. Senior flight attendants often fly on more coveted routes. These garner less time spent in layovers, better hotel accommodations, more desirable destinations and accruing working hours quicker.
For example a route from San Francisco to Tokyo could be more sought after than San Francisco to Des Moines. Often, flight attendants prefer to work longer, international flights when most passengers sleep for a large percentage of the flight.
In a memo addressed to the flight attendant team, Senior VP of Labor Relations, Douglas McKeen said,
What we’re addressing is the growing problem of selecting, trading or parking a pairing to broker, buy or sell it to another Flight Attendant. Several of the complaints we received pointed out social media posts authored by Flight Attendants that promised ‘hugs,’ ‘kisses,’ ‘candy canes,’ ‘expressions of appreciation’ and other coded enticements in exchange for a pairing. Our research of the eBB postings confirmed this is in fact happening, and these gestures are violations of our policies.
The memo goes on to mention that United Airlines changed their scheduling procedures last October. This afforded flight attendants more opportunity to control their schedules. Brokering, buying or selling their roster spot is against company policy. The airline states this behavior is unfair.
United Airlines’ current system
The current system does allow for picking up or trading routes. The airline has states it understands when crew need to switch with each other, but monetizing or other types of incentives are not allowed.
The job of flight attendant can be rough with dealing with grumpy passengers, long working hours, being assaulted or occasionally helping someone who needs unprecedented extra assistance.
In November, United announced it would be reducing the number of crew members on international flights. This reduction could mean there’s even more competition for desired roster spots.
Flight attendant rules
Earlier this month, United Airlines flight attendants came under fire when the airline discovered some employees were selling their staff travel perks. Those travel perks are designed to be used by the employee’s family and friends, not sold to those outside of the company. The airline fired 35 employees who were found to be part of the scheme, which is against employee policy.
Last year American Airlines dealt with a similar issue. The airline caught some senior flight attendants selling desirable roster spots to less-senior crew members, sometimes at a fee of $200.