May 18, 2022

This is a pretty significant development when it comes to the way that flight attendants in the United States are paid.

Delta’s new flight attendant boarding pay

Earlier in the year I wrote about how flight attendants in the United States generally aren’t paid for boarding, but rather start getting paid when the aircraft door closed. This of course sounds ridiculous, since you should get paid when you’re working. At the same time, the logic has been that flight attendants are instead paid a higher rate than they might otherwise be once the door closes.

The lack of pay during this period has finally started to get more attention, and we’ve seen online petitions calling on airlines to start paying flight attendants during these periods.

At least one major US airline will be changing its policy regarding this. As of June 2, 2022, Delta will be introducing boarding pay for flight attendants. Delta flight attendants will be paid 50% of their standard hourly rate for boarding:

  • Domestic narrow body flights will receive 40 minutes of boarding pay
  • Domestic wide body flights will receive 45 minutes of boarding pay
  • International flights will get 50 minutes of boarding pay

Hourly boarding pay rates are anywhere from $16.10 to $36.19 per hour (50% of the standard hourly pay), so an extra 40-50 minutes of pay per flight at that rate would translate to anywhere from $10.79 (for a first year flight attendant on a domestic narrow body) to $30.04 (for a 12th year flight attendant on an international flight) per flight.

It’s worth emphasizing that this pay is based on the scheduled boarding time, so there will be no additional pay for extended delays on the ground.

It’s interesting to see Delta do this first

Delta is known for treating its employees relatively well, and the airline has historically had the most generous profit sharing scheme on any US airline. But I find Delta leading the way here to be particularly noteworthy.

Delta is the only major US airline where flight attendants aren’t unionized. Over the years there have been several campaigns to get Delta flight attendants to unionize, and management has always tried to avoid that.

Adding boarding pay isn’t cheap, but I imagine Delta management views this as a worthwhile investment when it comes to labor relations. The fact that Delta is proactively adding boarding pay, while other unionized airlines don’t have this, will make unionization efforts at Delta more complicated. Now the big question is if or when other airlines will follow.

Bottom line

Delta has become the first major US airline to add boarding pay. Delta flight attendants will receive 50% of their standard hourly pay for a scheduled boarding period of 40-50 minutes, which will could up across hundreds of flights. Paying flight attendants during boarding makes perfect sense, since it’s probably the most stressful part of the job. It’s nice to see Delta making this change. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if other airlines match.

What do you make of Delta adding flight attendant boarding pay, and do you think other airlines will follow?

(Tip of the hat to Points, Miles & Martinis)

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