Flight attendants at Piedmont Airlines voted Wednesday to finalize a new contract that delivers pay raises and a $1,800 signing bonus at the regional carrier owned by American Airlines, the dominant air carrier in Philadelphia.
The new contract provides an immediate hourly pay raise of 3% to 12%, depending on where the flight attendant is on the pay scale, according to their union. The base hourly rate will go up 24% to 56% over the entire four-year contract.
Piedmont’s 300 or so flight attendants are based out of Philadelphia International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The carrier flies under the American Eagle brand to more than 50 locations on the East Coast.
As contract negotiations dragged on during the pandemic, employees authorized their union last October to go on strike, if necessary.
Although a strike didn’t come to pass, the vote by workers permitting the option “changed dynamics at the bargaining table almost immediately,” according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
The union announced a tentative agreement with Piedmont in January. On Wednesday, 87% of the flight attendants voted to ratify the deal.
“This contract will make an immediate difference in our lives at Piedmont,” AFA Piedmont President Keturah Johnson said in a statement. “We work hard as aviation’s first responders and deserve to be recognized within American Airlines Group. This contract provides real improvements overnight and throughout the length of the contract.”
Piedmont spokesperson Crystal Byrd said the agreement provides the airline’s flight attendants “with a competitive wage and benefits package that is at or better than their peers.”
Under the previous contact, flight attendants in their first year on the job, flying 72 guaranteed hours a month at hourly pay of $19.06, earned about $16,500 a year in base pay. Flight attendants in their fifth year earned about $24,300 in base pay.
Aside from the hourly pay raises, other benefits include an additional 1% match from the company toward 401(k) retirement accounts. The contract also preserves the same level of health insurance coverage at only a small additional cost, Johnson said.
The union did not win all the benefits it sought for flight attendants who commute long distances to the airport where they are based, Johnson said, but the company did agree to pay for additional hotel room nights in some instances.
Johnson, a Philadelphia-based flight attendant, spent the last month presenting the deal to her co-workers and gaining their support.
“We wanted to make sure there was something in [the contract] for everyone, and I believe we were successful in doing that,” she said in an interview.