“Should Workers Be Paid While Doing Work?”: Flight Attendants In The US Not Getting Paid Until The Plane Door Closes Sparks Debate Online

People who have jobs are involved in a business relationship where they offer their skills and knowledge and in return they receive compensation. Recently people, especially the younger generation, have started to realize that if they aren’t paid for something they are expected to do, they won’t do it. If they aren’t paid for that extra effort, for coming in early or leaving later, for waiting for the next person to come into a shift, they don’t feel the obligation to do it.

It is a healthy view and it is important to set boundaries and to not allow others to take advantage of them. So for many people, it was a surprise to learn that flight attendants in the US aren’t paid to do certain tasks but need to do them because otherwise important things like boarding passengers would not be done.

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Working doesn’t always mean getting paid, which is a reality for many flight attendants in the US

Image credits: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (not the actual photo)

Turns out, flight attendants are not paid in the US until the door of the plane is closed. Only then do the employers start counting their work hours, despite the fact that the flight attendants have to check the emergency equipment, help passengers board and exit the plane, and clean the plane after a flight, which takes time and effort. But unless they are in the air, they are not getting paid for the time spent on the plane.

Ben Schlappig on Twitter raised a question “Should flight attendants be paid during boarding?” because the reality is that they aren’t

Image credits: OneMileataTime

Attention to this issue was brought by Twitter user Ben Schlappig, who is the founder of the blog called One Mile At A Time. He wrote a post there titled Should Flight Attendants Be Paid During Boarding? and when he shared it on Twitter, people joined the conversation.

Ben starts the post by saying that there is a petition on change.org addressed to the president of the United States that now has over 120k signatures of people agreeing that flight attendants must be paid for all the hours they work.

That could be a reality just for the US as an employee from the UK revealed that he gets paid for all the hours he works

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People were actually outraged that this could even be a question, because boarding people is a flights attendant’s job, so how are they not getting paid?

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Ben acknowledges that being a flight attendant isn’t an easy job because of the sacrifices one has to make and because dealing with customers is always a pain because of those few jerks they have to endure. They are not paid enough for that, but the weird thing is that people still apply. There is probably some kind of fascination with being able to be in different places of the world in the span of a work week.

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In a blog post, Ben also pointed out that flight attendants do get paid while they’re not working in between flights when they get to stay in hotels

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But he thinks that flight attendants not being paid a fair wage is partially due to them not negotiating it. Ben suggests that job applicants should talk about this before signing a contract, but at the same time, he understands that this might mean employees would be offered a lower hourly rate to make it happen.

He also points out that flight attendants often do get paid when they are not working. These are the times during the flights when they get to rest at a hotel, go sight-seeing or grab a delicious dinner. This was confirmed by a flight attendant who shared her experience on TikTok.

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However, he agrees that flight attendants work hard and had to sacrifice a lot in their life so they deserve to be compensated fairly

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Kat Kamalani went on TikTok to let people know how flight attendants are paid. The first thing she mentioned was the issue discussed by Ben: that flight attendants are not paid until the boarding door is closed. She explained that this is called ‘in flight hours’ and they are counted only when the passengers are boarded.

But what flight attendants do get paid for is ‘per diem’ which is when they are placed in a hotel in a different city or country and they are waiting for their next flight. She reveals that the hourly rate is about somewhere from $1.5 to $2.5 and the exact amount depends on the destination.

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Most people in the comments agreed, even though there were a few who tried to make sense of this

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As a conclusion, Ben says that it is reasonable for flight attendants to want to be paid for that time before the actual lifting to the air as they are working and there is no denying it. But he thinks that the petition addressing the president won’t help and that every individual should seek better working conditions through negotiations of the contract.

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Although a much bigger number of people considered such a practice to be wage theft

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Ben’s tweet wasn’t very viral, but it created quite a discussion and over a thousand people joined the conversation. The majority of them, of course, thought that flight attendants should be paid for the time they are boarding passengers because it is their direct duty.

Many of them were outraged that such a question would be posed at all because if a person works, they should get paid for it. Also, if an employee has a place to be at a certain time requested by the employer, they have to be paid for all the time they are supposed to be somewhere.

One person explained that flight attendants must come a long time in advance before the flight and they should be paid for that time as well

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At the end, most agreed that this shouldn’t be a question because paying for the actual work is only fair

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Others started reasoning such unfairness with an analogy with other professions. They said that people don’t get paid for going through hallways or commuting. But these kinds of arguments were counteracted by other Twitter users who explained that walking through a corridor and executing a duty like passenger boarding which is essential for a flight cannot be compared.

Twitter user Mr Fine, who is a flight attendant in the UK, thinks that not paying for boarding is complete nonsense as he is paid for every duty he does from the moment he enters the crew room.

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Image credits: PrayersAndWine

Dealing with passengers, preparing the plane for takeoff and making sure everything goes smoothly before closing the boarding doors seems like a lot of work so it is really suspicious that the employees don’t get paid for that.

What do you think about this issue? Were you aware of the system of how flight attendants are paid? Let us know your thoughts and reactions in the comments!



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