I see Delta Flight Attendants soon to be unionized! What will it mean for Delta Air Lines?

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The new American Airlines merger was strongly supported by both the pilot and flight attendant unions. Without their support, the new mega airline would have been a much harder merger to happen if even possible at all.

The merger of Delta and NWA, that is flying under one operators license, is old news. However, the integration of the NWA and Delta flight crews is a much more recent event. In fact, for a long time, NWA and Delta crews never mixed.

I have flown with both for years. The Delta crews are still very Delta loyal and customer appreciative. The NWA crews are still very old school and there is much “bad blood” still over the merger results. ex-NWA crews miss the old culture of NWA and miss the power they had under union support (they say it is NOT about money, but about control of their jobs).

The vote to keep Delta nonunion was very very close last round. Now understand I am not taking a pro or con union stand, I am talking about what I see next. Clear? Also some personal feedback.

I am clearly a Delta loyalist and supporter. While I do miss much of what NWA brought to the table, I also feel the Delta crews are far superior in customer service over the NWA crews. The Delta crews care about the flyers more. They are willing to do what it takes to make sure a Delta flyer feels “special” and appreciated. They “GET” that air travel, basically, is a bus taking people from point A-B and making a passenger feel special will bring them back. Honestly, who cares if a tiny rule or two is broken along the way if it earns the loyalty of a passenger for life.

Now to NWA crews. What I have seen is a culture of “me-ism”. Of worker rights. Of frustration over HVC passengers demanding “things” and attitudes. Of don’t bother me now I am on a break. If you are a frequent Delta flyer, rather than bristling over what I am saying, you can spot a NWA crew over a Delta one. Not saying there are not good ones, but I see more smiles and joy from the job with Delta crews.

So now back to the point of today’s post. I feel Delta’s FA’s will very soon vote to go union. Why? Now that crews are “fully” integrated I see ex-NWA crews have been “talking-up” the glory days of NWA and the golden days of union support. Remember, the vote last time was very close. Now I think it is just a matter of time.

What will this mean for Delta CORP? Delta is doing their best to reward employees with profit sharing for sticking firm to the bottom line to make sure the company makes as much cash as possible. The problem I see comes from the clash of corporate cultures. After all who cares if you upset flyers as it does not really matter when the union “has your back”.

So what is next? Delta stands at a crossroads. There have been many of the “old guard” to take an early retirement from both sides. Think about the BIG picture. Delta is making moves to reward $$$$$$! MQD’s, the “buy it ALL right here” web site redo, the change in consolidator fares and on and on and on. Delta is 100% banking on rewarding those who spend BIG money with the airline. Agreed? Good or bad, we can agree that these are the FACTS! Now think of this; the FA’s go union. How will a culture towards flyers, especially those ‘”whiney” Platinum & Diamonds, impact the bottom line.

Can you see the literal “train wreck” that is on the way. In poker, when you go “all in”, you are 100% confident you will not just win, but win BIG. That is the bet Delta has made. But I fear for the airline I love to fly. These are unique times in the airline industry. I hope for the good of the airline, employees and management all get it right! – René

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17 comments

  1. If they go union, I think it will mean a slide to UA type service attitude. That is why NWA was so poor in the end.

  2. I hope I never see the day where Delta FA’s become unionized, for all the reasons you cited. IMHO, I can’t say that Delta always had the best product, but I always believed that Delta had the best customer service and interactions, on the ground, on the phone and most importantly, in the air. A union will definitely destroy that and I will need to rethink my loyalty to Delta.

  3. Interesting … though does seem to be a bit of a ‘taking sides’ post 🙂

    Curious how you know if any crew was Delta vs Ex-NWA? Do do you have to ask? Or can you assume that if you’re flying to MSP it’s NWA?

  4. @Railon – great observation. Yes, I attempted to NOT takes sides but was hard to pull off. Yes, I do, as part of the blog, often ask if an FA is ex-NWA or long time Delta. It is more than just flying from MSP or DTW as the mixed crews now are from all over (mostly).

  5. if the union deal happens we’ll see a lot of flight attendants working past there “sell by date”

  6. I am curious as to what your source is as I can’t find confirmation anywhere else?

  7. Forgive me but I just don’t see it. I flew over 200,000 miles last year and every year since 2008. What you describe I saw precisely at the very beginning of the merger. This article reads like one from 2008. Today, I find former NWAs more willing to be of service and friendly. Unlike the hardened somewhat non-caring crews out of ATL or JFK (not all mind you). When I speak with them I will casually ask where they came from and it is interesting how much the former NWA crews have come around compared to the past. In my opinion, they generally come across more pleasant than Delta now. Believe me, when the merger first started I was not a fan of NWAs. So much so that I had Continental match status and left for a short time. Sorry this just doesn’t sound accurate to me.

  8. As a former Northwest Orient Flight Attendant from 1983 the above article just broke my heart. My job before that was a chief flight attendant for a regional carrier. We, have been flying together and I fly international and never have been rude or even had a bad letter. The majority of flight attendants from both sides have been getting along fine and our work ethics define our company, Delta. Do you think the red dress flight attendant are NWA and the Blue ..Delta? Delta, and Northwest both have great employees with golden standards. I, just love Delta and we love our customers. I, wish I could get you a special little bag of treats to thank you for investing in flying the worlds Greatest Airline, Delta. Bye-bye now and have a good one. Union or No Union Richard Anderson is doing a fabulous job as he did with NWA.

  9. @Aubrey – if you are a long time reader of the blog, you will know I am ultra-PRO Delta in the world of ANTI-Delta blogs, news articles and the like. I stand up for Delta when just about no one else does. I agree that RA has done great things for the company. Has he done great things for flyers? Many flyers would say no due to MQD’s, very hard to find low level award seats and almost worthless SWU’s. If you were still working for the company, I think you would find as I do, that there are still strong feelings that NWA, and union support, gave FA’s much more control over their lives and jobs! But thanks for your input!

  10. I appreciate your comments, but disagree. We have come a long way since the merger. Maybe at one time there was a strong union support, however, that is quickly dwindling. Surely, there are still some strong supporters however, our moral and loyalty to our management is stronger than ever. I as most of our colleagues do not see the union anywhere in our future and both former NW flight attendants and Delta Flight attendants have merged together to a very strong Delta Air Lines strong Family and Culture and no union will interfere with with that now or anytime in our near future. We will continue to get better, bigger and stronger Together.

  11. @Becky – txs for your feedback. I talk to a LOT of FA’s on my 105 segments last year and for now you are right as the 8.2% big check must have been nice. But I fear Skymiles2015 will drive that down to much lower levels soon! Then we will see.

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