Southwest Flight Attendants Score New Contract, to Be Among Highest Paid

Skift Take

After overwhelmingly rejecting a previous contract in December, this one will make Southwest flight attendants some of the most highly paid in the industry.

Southwest flight attendants ratified a new four-year contract that will offer them a 22.3% raise, the Transport Workers Union announced Wednesday. 

The contract also offers flight attendants $364 million in retroactive wages and will make them some of the most highly paid flight attendants in the industry. The retroactive wages will be paid out based on how much flight attendants had been flying during negotiations. 

The 22.3% raise kicks in May 1. 

“This is a significant victory for Flight Attendants industrywide and the TWU has once again proven that we are an incredibly effective voice for Flight Attendants,” said TWU president John Samuelsen in a statement. 

The contract includes provisions for additional compensation for extra time spent on the ground and premium pay for extended shifts. The contract also includes protections for flight attendants who experience injuries while on the job and provides holiday pay for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Flight attendants will also receive paid maternal and paternal leave that the union described as “industry-first.” The contract includes healthcare coverage for flight attendants taking care of a newborn child. 

The newly ratified contract also includes 3% raises in 2025, 2026 and 2027 on top of the 22.3% pay increase. And after the 2022 holiday meltdown, the contract also includes a revised reserve system that would end the 24-hour on-call system so flight attendants can get more rest. 

“This agreement rewards our Flight Attendants and includes provisions that strengthen Southwest’s operation,” said Adam Carlisle, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations.

A Major Deal

The Southwest flight attendants’ union is one of the first to reach a landmark deal with its carrier. Previously, negotiations reached a contentious point when Southwest flight attendants overwhelmingly rejected a contract in December. 

The new contract was approved by 81% votes in favor, with 93% of eligible flight attendants participating. 

Flight attendants at American Airlines, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines are also in the midst of contract negotiations. 

United flight attendants picketed at LaGuardia Airport and other major U.S. and U.K. airports April 11. Alaska flight attendants held a similar protest in February. And American flight attendants previously voted to authorize a strike that was then struck down by mediators. 

A major flash point during negotiations has been issues with pay structure. Flight attendants are typically only compensated for the time worked inside the plane. Boarding and any other work on the ground is not compensated. 

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