For flight professionals and the general public alike, one of the most recognized parts of the airline industry is the strong union presence among its professionals. Major international and national airlines have been unionized for decades in order to protect flight professionals from excessive pay and benefit cuts meant to secure the bottom line. However, unions have been considered a mixed blessing by the media, the public, and airline executives. Striking flight attendants, pilots, and flight technicians sometimes hold up flights, drawing ire from customers. As well, airline executives by and large feel that unions ask too much from airlines when many companies are struggling to stay afloat financially. There are pros and cons to the union process for professionals, though it still benefits them to this day.
It is important to start with the negatives of unionization in the airline industry before speaking of its virtues. The decline of labor unions in the United States and North American countries has made the airline union appear like it is fighting a losing battle with public opinion. As well, the benefits of comradery amongst union members have been weakened by increasing competition for jobs in the airline industry. While the union advocates hard for workers and businesses have obliged in the past, many airline executives would rather concede optional health care plans and other benefits than give up the big paydays that unions often push for. Finally, the aforementioned problem of strikes among airline unions can often make flight professionals look selfish and unsympathetic.
However, the public should realize that unions have helped keep flights in the air for years by averting greater labor strife. Indeed, the airline unions are one of the last places in the American labor landscape where successful negotiations are still a common occurrence. Airline professional unions offer flight crews, pilots, and attendants an opportunity to develop relationships with colleagues in other companies while working toward competitive salaries. As well, companies and the public should look at how the union’s bargaining power not only benefits flight professionals but the overall business.
Unions are able to negotiate group health benefits for their members, which helps the company save on providing more expensive health options. The union-business relationship is not one sided and while unions push for higher wages, the compromise wages that are established in negotiations help keep experienced professionals in the industry. The unionization of airline workers benefits everyone involved but flight professionals need to be aware of these different pros and cons to gain a fuller picture.