United Airlines just came up with the kind of insult that can really upset customers

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s a fascinating time for developing business management skills.

Since no one seems to know where the economy is going – or even what it’s doing right now – many are trying to discern a trend. Or even the appearance of one.

Also: Flying soon? Flighty is a must-have iOS app for air travel

Perhaps a weak development is how companies treat their employees.

The workers, united, would like not to be insulted

Many have surely been grabbed recently when current Twitter CEO Elon Musk seemed to handle labor relations himself — on Twitter — with obvious (in)sensitivity.

This coincided with some United Airlines flight attendants reaching out to me and telling me a little about what’s going on at the biggest airline in the world.

Many airlines are currently in negotiations with their employee unions. Airlines are desperate not to pay too much, even though they have seen their revenues jump dramatically.

United — along with American Airlines and Southwest — currently has disgruntled pilots and equally disgruntled flight attendants.

Also: The Best Travel VPNs

They are used to putting up with a lot. On the salary side, they are at the bottom of the scale. Sold to a relatively glamorous life, they sometimes discover that this is not quite it.

Still, United’s latest contract offer to its flight attendants appears to be exploiting some difficult areas.

This is perhaps to be expected. Negotiations are, for many, all you can do.

Yet after reading some of the highlights of the airline’s current contract proposal to flight attendants, one clause may upset basic human feelings: “Life insurance benefits are not payable if the flight attendant used disability benefits prior to death.”

Please excuse me, but I’ve read these words many times and I could only think this: “What kind of human being would even consider concocting this attempt to save money with a working heart?”

Naturally, I rephrased this question somewhat before asking United Airlines. A spokesperson told me he couldn’t comment on those details, but added, “We look forward to reaching a new agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants.”

Also: The best travel planning apps

I have also contacted the AFA and will update, if I hear word.

The mere idea of ​​an employer trying to deny family life insurance benefits to a deceased employee because that employee died while receiving disability benefits might seem like a twist to many.

It may even border on the offensive, even if – or perhaps especially because – the airline offers to increase disability benefits, “but offset by all other benefits paid”.

Want more spending money? Pass these tests

Obviously, many flight attendants are extremely upset by such maneuvers on the part of the airline. (People often contact me when they are upset.)

Those who have worked for the airline for a long time believe that their quality of life and pay levels have dropped exponentially since more civilian times. In that, they perhaps share the sentiments of so many customers who feel that the flight experience hasn’t exactly improved over the years.

But after details of the airline’s proposal emerged, United decided to make things better.

An email to flight attendants from John Slater, senior vice president of inflight services, offered a calming approach.

It said, in part, “The company offers peak wages and improves sections of the contract that hurt productivity.”

Also: How to keep your home safe when traveling

I’m not sure the word “enhance” means quite the same thing to everyone involved.

But then there was this. Slater offered the words of United CEO Scott Kirby: “The best airline in the world…is also going to be where it’s got the best pay. I’ll say when we’re at work, we’re going to work. You know we’re not going to create bedding of feathers and inefficiencies. We’re going to work.”

Do you want negotiations or capitulations?

I know you will tell me that this is all part of the momentum and the game of labour-management negotiations, but doesn’t it come across as a dad telling a four-year-old that he doesn’t won’t get spending money unless he gets an A in all his school tests?

Indeed, I had access to some private forum comments from United flight attendants, who read Kirby’s words with profound disturbance.

Words and phrases that appeared regularly were “robot”, “quality of life”, “rage” and “insulting”. Some have suggested that the only time they do nothing is when they are not being paid. Who bathes in a certain logic.

Many will have different opinions on these feelings expressed. “What’s wrong with work at work?” Some will sniff. “Does the company really call its own employees lazy? Others will sniff back.

Clients, too, may look at this and believe it’s just another day in working relationships. Or they might be shocked by the truths buried in the fuselage. It’s odd, though, given that some airlines still claim they need more staff.

Also: These are my 5 must-have devices for business travel now

In a way, all of this may seem to reflect a general deterioration in labor relations. Why, even tech workers are now trying to form unions.

How much does it really cost to treat your employees well — oh, let’s call it “decency” — and choose words carefully?

And how much, in the end, does it benefit an airline to have employees who believe their hard work is rewarded with a touch of respect?

I wonder if airline CFOs have an algorithm that can help them with this calculation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top