Association of Flight Attendants

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Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
FoundedAugust 22, 1945
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
  • United States
Key people
  • Sara Nelson, Int'l President
  • Debora Sutor, Int'l Vice President
  • Kevin Creighan, Int'l Secretary-Treasurer
AffiliationsAFL–CIO, CWA, ITF

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (commonly known as AFA) is a union representing flight attendants in the United States. As of January 2018, AFA represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines. Since 2004, AFA has been part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), an affiliate of AFL–CIO. AFA is also an affiliate of the International Transport Workers' Federation.



AFA was founded in 1945 by flight attendants at United Airlines. The organization was originally known as Airline Stewardess Association (ALSA). ALSA negotiated its first contract with United in 1946. In 1949, ALSA merged with the Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association (ALSSA), an affiliate of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). By 1951, ALSSA had 3,300 members. ALPA created two separate divisions in 1960, one for pilots, and one for stewards and stewardesses. Nearly half of the USA's 8,700 flight attendants were members of ALPA's S&S division at that time. In 1973, ALSSA flight attendants chose self-determination and formed the independent Association of Flight Attendants, leaving ALPA. In 1982, AFA had 22,000 members at 18 American airlines. In 1984, the AFL–CIO granted AFA a charter.[2]


In July 2006, Northwest Airlines flight attendants voted to replace their independent union with AFA. AFA's membership rose to 55,000 flight attendants. On November 4, 2010, AFA was decertified by the National Mediation Board as the bargaining representative for the pre-merger Northwest Airlines flight attendants of Delta Air Lines, after narrowly losing a representational election of the combined group the day before.[3] AFA filed objections to the election with the National Mediation Board alleging interference.[4]

On June 29, 2011 AFA won one of the largest private sector union elections in decades, winning representation rights for the combined workforce of approximately 24,000 flight attendants at United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Continental Micronesia.[5] That election was triggered by a National Mediation Board ruling that those airlines had formed a single transportation system as a result of a corporate merger.


AFA-CWA members threaten CHAOS at Northwest Airlines August 15, 2006 at San Francisco International Airport

CHAOS is AFA's trademarked strategy of intermittent strikes designed to maximize the impact of an industrial action while minimizing the risk for striking flight attendants.[citation needed]

In May 1993, AFA members at Seattle-based Alaska Airlines were facing a 30-day cooling-off period after more than three years of negotiations.[6] In June, 1993, the cooling-off period mandated by the Railway Labor Act had expired. The first CHAOS strike took place in Seattle when three flight attendants walked off an Alaska Airlines flight just before passenger boarding.[7] A month later, another crew of flight attendants struck the last flight out of Las Vegas.[8] A few weeks later, AFA struck five flights simultaneously in the San Francisco area.[9]

America West,[10] AirTran and US Airways[11] all settled with AFA on the eve of, or a few minutes after, the end of a 30-day cooling-off period in the 1990s. AFA flight attendants at Midwest Express (now Midwest Airlines), completed a cooling-off period without reaching agreement on a first contract in 2002. After three weeks of a CHAOS campaign, and on the eve of CHAOS strikes,[12] management agreed to terms that were ratified by the flight attendants. United Airlines flight attendants used the threat of CHAOS to leverage their negotiations during the airline's bankruptcy,[13] succeeding in doubling the value of the replacement retirement plan management had proposed.[citation needed]

Flight attendants at Northwest Airlines, locked in a round of bankruptcy negotiations, deployed a CHAOS campaign days after joining AFA in July, 2006.[14] Union negotiators concluded a new tentative agreement with millions of dollars in improvements, but which was voted down by a narrow margin. AFA continued preparations for CHAOS strikes at Northwest pending the outcome of negotiations and litigation surrounding the case.[15]

The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the union, denying the strike injunction sought by management.[16] On appeal, the federal district court and the court of appeals ruled that workers under the Railway Labor Act cannot strike in response to rejection of a collective bargaining agreement in bankruptcy.[17] Northwest and AFA returned to negotiations and reached a new tentative agreement, which was narrowly ratified by the flight attendants on May 29, 2007.[18] The flight attendants became the last major work group at Northwest to agree to new contract terms in bankruptcy. The new contract provided Northwest with $195 million in annual cuts through 2011, and secured a $182 million equity claim for the flight attendants before it was lost upon the company's exit from bankruptcy.[citation needed]

Member flight attendant groups[edit]

AFA represents the flight attendant bargaining unit at the following airlines:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-376. (Search)
  2. ^ Nielsen, passim.
  3. ^ Mutzabaugh, Ben (November 4, 2010). "Aviation Photos & Video". USA Today.
  4. ^ "Union claims Delta interfered in election". David Shaffer. Minneapolis Star Tribune. November 23, 2010
  5. ^ "United Continental flight attendants pick a union, by Joshua Freed, AP". Seattle Post Intelligencer.[dead link]
  6. ^ Borer p. 567.
  7. ^ Polly Lane (1993-08-23). "Striking Flight Attendants Suspended - Union Delays Its First Alaska Trip". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  8. ^ "Alaska Airline Workers Delay Las Vegas Flight". Seattle Times. 1993-08-25. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  9. ^ "Alaska Suspends 17 More Attendants After Flights Disrupted". Seattle Times. 1993-09-14. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  10. ^ "America West Strike Looms", CNN, web posted March 19, 1999. Archived February 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "US Airways Flight Attendants Hold News Conference, CNN, aired March 24, 2000 - 11:03 a.m. ET". CNN. 2000-03-24. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  12. ^ "Union Keeps Midwest Express Guessing", by Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1, 2002. Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Gregory Meyer (April 29, 2005). "UAL Flight Attendants Threaten CHAOS". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  14. ^ Jeff Horwich (2006-08-01). "How chaotic would CHAOS be for Northwest?". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  15. ^ Dale Russakoff (August 25, 2006). "Cabin Pressure - The Union Promises to Wreak 'Chaos' As Another Carrier Downsizes a Career". Washington Post. p. D01. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  16. ^ Jeff Horwich (2006-08-17). "Judge rules Northwest flight attendants can strike". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  17. ^ Padraic Cassidy (March 29, 2007). "Court upholds strike ban on Northwest's flight attendants". MarketWatch. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  18. ^ "Northwest flight attendants okay bargaining agreement". Reuters. 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  19. ^ "Cathay Pacific's US-based workers vote to unionise, after anger at threat to retirement benefits". South China Morning Post. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  20. ^ Nielsen, pp. 135–136.
  21. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Key Additions to his Administration". September 15, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2017 – via National Archives.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]