Does everything have to be political? When it comes to big U.S. airlines, I'm beginning to think so.

Most companies in other industries seem to try hard not to get pulled into political disputes. Our country is as divided as we've been in decades, and they don't want to take stands unnecessarily that will turn off big portions of their customer base.

But with airlines, either they or their employees keep getting involved. Is it admirable bravery or unnecessary alienation of customers? 

Maybe it's a mix. Take the fight Delta got into with the NRA after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Or the two American Airlines flight attendants who led the movement to get airlines to denounce the federal government's practice of separating parents from children at border crossings.

Now, through their unions, United and American flight attendants are adding a new one: coming out swinging against President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

From the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 27,000 American Airlines employees:

We oppose the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. His demonstrated opposition to the rights of workers and Unions, as well as his stance against women's rights and marriage equality, make him unsuitable for the highest court of our nation.

And from the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 24,000 United flight attendants:

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has demonstrated contempt for workers and their families. In his decisions, he has consistently sided with employers over the rights of working people, including safety issues in the workplace.

Kavanaugh has ruled against workers' access to the courts, owed monetary benefits, and failed to hold employers accountable who evade collective bargaining and discriminate against union members.

I get that these are the statements of the flight attendants' unions, not the airlines themselves. And I understand that they have the right to free speech, of course.

But I wondered how the airlines and the rank and file employees themselves felt.

Kavanaugh is almost certainly going to be confirmed, since Republicans hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. So the upside of coming out swinging like this isn't clear to me.

The downside is clear, however: the fact that a sizable plurality of both airlines' customers, at least, support the president and likely don't want their airline to weigh in on their politics.

I'm thinking of what happened recently when Walmart allowed a third-party vendor to market "Impeach 45" baseball jerseys online, and people on Twitter started talking about a boycott. It didn't take long for Walmart to boot the jerseys from its platform.

So I asked American Airlines and United Airlines employees on Facebook for their take. And the ones I heard from don't seem too pleased to have the unions weighing in.

  • "If they actually take it that way they are part of the problem." --retired American Airlines captain
  • "Union = Left wing radicalism = BFD...!" --American Airlines reservations agent
  • "I disagree. He will be fine. Quit projecting all this negative talk." --American Airlines flight attendant
  • "Kavanaugh is a strict constitutionalist and not an activist, which is why the liberals are against him." --United Airlines pilot
  • "Flight attendants? What do they know, lack of oxygen can't think straight!" --United Airlines aircraft maintenance technician
Published on: Jul 16, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.