It's the busiest travel week of the year. Now, American Airlines flight attendants say they'll kick it off with a nice, big protest in 15 of the airline's most important U.S. cities.

The reason? Their "extreme dissatisfaction" with American Airlines, they said in a press release.

To be clear, this isn't a strike. There's no reason to think that any American Airlines flight attendants who are scheduled to work won't show up, or that flights will be affected.

But the union representing flight attendants say they chose this weekend for a protest in order to commemorate what happened when they actually did go on strike--25 years ago Sunday.

November 18, 1993

November 18 was a Thursday in 1993, one week before Thanksgiving, and American Airlines flight attendants walked off the job, crippling the airline.

What's more, they promised to stay away for exactly 11 days, which basically meant the entire Thanksgiving travel rush. American scrambled to fly as many planes as it could, but many flights were canceled.

Meanwhile, the airline moved planes around the country to places where anticipated that flight attendants might cross picket lines, or else that they'd have other employees available who'd been trained to work as replacements.

In the end, President Clinton stepped in. The strike ended officially five days after it launched, and well ahead of Thanksgiving. 

'Extreme dissatisfaction'

Now, the union says it feels like it's still fighting over the same issues, a quarter century later.

"It's unbelievable that we are here 25 years later still fighting for fair and equitable working conditions for our flight attendants. Our members chose this historic date to show their extreme dissatisfaction," the union's national president, Lauri Bassani, said in a press release.

Among the things she says they're upset about: "failed scheduling systems, a punitive new sick policy, and continued contract and seniority violations."

Here are the cities where the union said it's holding airport protests between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time.

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • Dallas
  • Charlotte
  • Miami
  • Raleigh-Durham
  • St. Louis
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Boston
  • New York
  • Washington D.C.
  • Chicago

'An outstanding flight attendant team'

In a statement to the Chicago Business Journal, which reported on the protests, American Airlines said:

"We have an outstanding flight attendant team that takes terrific care of our customers on every flight. There has been a tremendous amount of change for our team, and we respect their right to voice their opinion.

We will continue to work closely with our partners at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants to prioritize the needs of our 27,000 flight attendants."

Again, it's a protest, not a strike. No need to panic over the idea of canceled flights. We can't overemphasize that enough.

That's a good thing, because Thanksgiving travel this year is projected to be the busiest since 2005, with more than 54 million Americans taking to the roads and skies for the big national holiday.

As for what happened in 1993? The flight attendants went back on the job, but American Airlines still took a hit--both because of severe wintry weather in some parts of the country, but also because passengers had made other plans before the strike was canceled.

Anecdotally, the New York Times reported at the time, many American Airlines flights took off at well under 50 percent capacity on the day before Thanksgiving.

"This may have been a smaller crowd than we expected," a spokeswoman for the airline said back then. "It's no secret that many of our passengers have booked on other carriers."

Published on: Nov 18, 2018
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