Boston’s Logan Airport is one of 10 across the country to host flight attendant protests today. The American Airlines employees are pissed about compensation paid to the company’s executives.
Here’s the deal: flight attendants have had to stomach pay cuts, while executives have picked up a cool $100 million over the past six years. The flight attendants gave up $340 million a year in 2003.
I guess this is the difference between negotiating your own compensation and having a union do it for you.
American Airlines points out, according to the Boston Globe, that the largess doled out to the top dogs is incentive-based compensation, mostly tied to stock price. This isn’t unusual for the executive suite, as it requires the brass to generate value for shareholders in order to score big. So, the fact that the execs were able to rake in some dough means they rewarded shareholders first.
The airline also points out that its executives have only been paid 65 percent of their “intended compensation,” as the Globe puts it, over the past decade. Simply put: they have no choice but to take a pay cut when the airline fails to perform.
What’s interesting is that a flight attendant quoted in the Globe’s story wants “some accountability.” She doesn’t realize, however, that it’s already there. The comp structure is designed for it.
A Virgin Blue flight attendant has been fired after putting a 17-month-old baby in an overhead compartment as part of a peek-a-boo joke. Passenger Natalie Williamson was on a flight from Fiji to Sydney with her husband and son when the flight attendant put the baby into the overhead bin and locked it for 10 seconds.
“I stood up and there were people laughing and then I said ‘Get my son out of there now’,” she told Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun.
Virgin Blue admits that the incident happened but claims Williamson’s husband had been playing peek-a-boo with the overhead bin when the flight attendant joined in. The airline has offered apologies as well as three free flights, but the mother claims she and her child are too traumatized to redeem them, and her son still suffers from anxiety and withdrawal three months after the incident.
Thai Airways International imposed body mass index and waistline restrictions on its 6,000 flight attendants last June. According to the Bangkok Post, all flight attendants, both male and female, were given six months to comply with the weight restriction. For female attendants, a BMI of 25 and a waistline maximum of 32 inches was implemented. The male attendants had restrictions of 27.5 BMI and a 35 inch waistline. To compute BMI, check out this handy calculator.
Those that did not meet the standards are now limited to domestic flights and same day service. They will be further relegated to ground crew if they fail to comply within a year. 41 flight attendants, 28 of them male, did not meet the guidelines and have filed a complaint with the Thailand Labour Protection and Welfare Department for the regulation which “violated their human rights, hurt their feelings, and decreased their incomes.” Although less than 1% of the Thai Airways flight attendant work force was affected, the Draconian measure has stirred up a debate regarding weight restrictions for flight attendants.
The vice president of products and customer services for Thai Airways, Teerapol Chotechanapibal, had this to say about the restrictions:
“…the regulation was aimed at improving the personality of flight attendants, who were an essential part of boosting competitiveness with other airlines, while their health had an impact on services and the safety of passengers. Flight attendants had to be agile and able to evacuate passengers from a plane within 90 seconds in the event of an accident. He said airlines worldwide had implemented similar standards. Stewardesses who are 160cm (5’3″) tall must not weigh above 66kg (145 lbs) while stewards who are 165cm (5’5″) tall must not weigh over 74.8kg (165 lbs).”
Asian air lines are notorious for hiring tall and rail thin flight attendants. A couple years ago, Air India even fired ten employees for being fat. I recall walking through Incheon airport in South Korea and passing a group of Korean Air stewardesses striding along the auto-walk like a gaggle of graceful storks. While I do not mind the inherent rule that flight attendants should be fit enough to assist with potential emergency situations, seeing an explicit weight restriction (an unnecessarily strict one at that) makes the whole enterprise feel cold, calculating, and inhuman. What do you think?
A survey by the Business Travel and Meetings Show asked 1000 of its members to pick the “most attractive flight attendants”. The results are a mixed bag – as expected, the Asian carriers all scored very well, but top spot for “hottest flight attendants” went to Virgin Atlantic with 53% of the votes.
There are even a few surprises in the lineup – with Aer Lingus coming in fifth, and KLM ninth. I can’t say I’d have included either of those in the list.
Top 10 most attractive airline cabin crew members:
Portuguese flight attendant Vera Silva got the inflight surprise of her life when her boyfriend picked up the P.A. microphone to propose to her. While Ms. Silva was busy preparing drinks in the back of the plane, her boyfriend told her that he was on board because he loves her, and because he wants to “ask her a question”.
With the help of her fellow crew members and the pilot, the proposal entertained the whole plane – and with an embarrassed “Sim”, the 80 passengers celebrated the moment with loud applause.
TAP pilot Pedro Matthias told ITN reporters that this was the first time he’s experienced this in his 35 years of flying. After the proposal, Ms. Silva told reporters that she was so embarrassed that she wanted to hide in the bathroom.
Congratulations to the happy couple – this is one story they’ll probably be telling for years to come.