Cathay Pacific’s U.S. Based Flight Attendants Will Become Unionized After Company Cutbacks

Cathay Pacific flight attendants based in the U.S. are in the process of becoming unionized after the airline has stopped contributing to their employees’ social security and medicare health coverage.

cx-b777-copy-2The Flight Attendant Union AFA (Association of Flight Attendants) has begun to initiate the process for staff members to cast a vote by submitting documents to the responsible agency.

Cathay Pacific management must have felt they can get away with certain behavior in the U.S. which would have been unacceptable, if not to say illegal in other countries and pushed their crew to resort to the only reasonable way of protecting their interest by joining a union.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) published a press release yesterday (access here).

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), on behalf of Cathay Pacific U.S.-based Cabin Crew, filed on Monday for a union representation election. Cathay Cabin Crew demonstrated overwhelming support for AFA with signed authorization cards asking for an election. Now they eagerly await the National Mediation Board (NMB) to call for an election.

“We are excited for Cathay U.S.-based Cabin Crew to join with us to raise the standards for all Flight Attendants. Their Cathay Cabin Crew counterparts in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Canada all have contracts with higher pay, benefits and job security. It’s past time for these hard-working American-based Flight Attendants to have a contract too. Together we will work to deny multi-national corporations from undervaluing our work. This election is about equality and fairness. It matters to Flight Attendants in the U.S. and Cabin Crew serving as aviation’s first responders around the world that these Flight Attendants have a strong voice at work,” said Sara Nelson, AFA International President.

The NMB is the federal agency that oversees union representation elections in the airline industry. Once the NMB verifies the signed union authorization cards submitted by AFA, an election will be called. A schedule for the voting period will be announced by the NMB.

Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong. Cathay operates multiple cabin crew units in the U.S. in addition to Canada, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. Cathay operates daily flights out of LAX, SFO, JFK, BOS, ORD to Hong Kong. The company employs approximately 450 cabin crew in the U.S. with bases in SFO, LAX and JFK.

Cathay prides itself for being a premium airline that offers premium service to their passengers. I can’t see how this goes therein with short changing your own employees to the extent where the company stops even the most basic benefits of an employee such as social security and medical coverage.


It doesn’t just go for this particular profession but I firmly believe that each employee deserves to have basic elements of protection that cover health, safety and protection in case of unforeseen circumstances. Also, employees that are employed full time should earn a living wage and receive a proper contract that specifies their exact responsibilities and benefits.

Cathay Pacific engages in really shameful behavior here in using loopholes in U.S. labor law that allow such tactics in the first place. I’m not a big fan of unions when it comes to measures such as in Europe where they hold companies at ransom squeezing more and more out while already having pretty decent contracts (see the constant strikes within the Lufthansa Group in Germany) but this case is different considering the really weak U.S. labor laws that fail to protect employees properly.