Skift Take

If flight attendants ratify the contract, United's customers should win, and it will be a big win for Munoz, too. Today, flight attendants work under two labor agreements, making the airline a model of inefficiency at times.

For the first time since Continental Airlines and United Airlines merged in 2010, United’s flight attendants could soon work under the same labor contract, allowing all to work on each of the carrier’s flights.

United said Friday that it and the Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing the airline’s more than 25,000 flight attendants, had reached an agreement on terms for a new contract. The sides said they would work to finalize language over the weekend, and any deal would have to be ratified by flight attendants. Neither United nor the union disclosed details of the proposal.

Negotiating a new, joint contract has been a priority for United CEO Oscar Munoz, because it should help the airline operate more efficiently. Since the merger, flight attendants have been assigned to one of two employee groups, usually based on where they worked before the airlines combined. As the new, combined airline started hiring more flight attendants, they also were assigned to one of the company’s two flight attendant clusters.

One set of flight attendants works under Continental’s former work rules and pay rates, while another follows pre-merger United’s contract, and aircraft are assigned to one group or the other. This means United-side flight attendant cannot work on a plane that belonged to Continental before the merger, hurting the airline’s ability to efficiently operate its schedule. Even new aircraft that nether ailrine flew before the merger, like the Boeing 787, are assigned to either Continental or United flight attendants.

United’s pilots have no such issue. They ratified a joint contract in 2012, and all pilots can fly all aircraft. Former United and Continental pilots even fly together.

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Tags: flight attendants, labor, united airlines

Photo credit: United CEO Oscar Munoz made a new flight attendant contract a priority. Richard Drew / Associated Press

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