Delta Air Lines, which is facing yet another attempt to organize its flight attendants, will begin paying cabin crew during boarding, the first for a major U.S. airline.
Across the aviation industry in the United States, hourly wages for flight attendants start when all passengers are seated and the doors of the aircraft close.
Delta said the change will begin on June 2 on all flights.
In a note to the flight attendants, Delta’s senior vice president of in-flight service, Kristen Manion Taylor, said the new salary “further recognizes the importance of your role on board to ensure a welcoming, safe and timely start to every flight.”
The salary during boarding will be 50% of the regular salary.
The change comes as Delta plans to increase the boarding time for single-flight or “narrow-body” aircraft from 35 minutes to 40 minutes, which the airline expects will increase the percentage of flights departing on time.
Manion Taylor said that after a test last fall and after receiving comments from the flight attendants, she promised not to introduce the new boarding times without giving extra pay to the cabin crew.
Delta said the new boarding salary would be on top of 4% increases for flight attendants, as it announced in March, and which will take effect later in the week.
The Atlanta-based Delta has successfully fought to defeat several attempts to organize its 20,000 stewardesses. The Association of Stewardesses – which has been upgrading its latest organizing efforts at Delta for more than two years but has yet to gather enough support to force a vote – took credit for the boarding salary.
“This new policy is the direct result of our organization,” the union said in a statement posted on its website. “As we get closer to applying for our union vote, management is getting nervous.”
The union represents flight attendants in United, Alaska, Spirit and about a dozen smaller airlines. Delta said none of these airlines pay their cabin crew for boarding time.
Trade unions represent between 82% and 86% of workers in American, United and Southwest, but only 20% of Delta’s 83,000 employees, according to a statutory application. Delta’s 13,000 pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. Stewardesses at Delta’s Endeavor Air regional flying subsidiary are unionized.
David Koenig can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter