Transport Workers Union of America
For Immediate Release: June 10, 2022
Media Contact: Emily Orlich, email@example.com
FLIGHT ATTENDANTS’ UNION LAUNCHES NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO TACKLE SURGING ASSAULTS ON AIRLINE WORKERS
An effort of the Transport Workers Union of America, AssaultWontFly.com gives airline workers a space to share their experiences of harassment and assault by unruly passengers;
Union urges lawmakers to pass legislation that will protect airline workers on the job, as current systems for reporting, enforcement and transparency remain vague and abusive passengers continue to fly
NATIONWIDE – Airline workers with the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) on Friday launched a national campaign aimed at tackling the surge in airline worker assaults by unruly passengers. The campaign, Assault Won’t Fly, centers around the experiences of airline workers who have been intimidated, harassed or assaulted by abusive passengers and calls on legislators, regulators and airline executives to take action and to develop clear, consistent policies and safety measures to ensure all airline workers are protected on the job.
TWU members will hold in-person actions at major airports across the country to connect with fellow airline workers and passengers to sign a letter calling for the creation of a “Flight Attendants Bill of Rights.” During these actions, members will hand out bag tags and wristbands that say “Assault Won’t Fly,” along with postcards that have a QR code directing to the website that provides details about the campaign.
“I’ve had drunk passengers push me because we needed to cut them off due to intoxication. I have been called homophobic slurs and harassed by passengers who would not comply with rules. Often, after these incidents, we are expected to return to work and pretend nothing happened,” said Valyo Calvert, a JetBlue flight attendant and member of the TWU Health, Safety & Security Committee. “It’s important during these times that we are supported and feel protected by our company. We need real, industry-wide change so that all flight crews are protected, supported, and respected on the job.”
As part of Assault Won’t Fly, TWU members, including flight attendants and airline workers, came together to call for the creation of a “Flight Attendants Bill of Rights.” Together they outlined necessary protections that lawmakers should include in the legislation, such as universal safety protocols, comprehensive and clear guidelines for reporting assaults, regular training and self-defense courses for flight attendants, and increased support and transparency for airline workers who face abuse. The TWU is calling for elected officials to work with flight attendants and airline workers to develop the first ever “Flight Attendants Bill of Rights” and ensure those who keep the flying public safe are also protected. The letter urging lawmakers to further tackle the issue of airline worker assault can be viewed and signed here.
Despite flight attendants’ essential, and potentially dangerous job to serve and keep passengers safe, airlines treat them as disposable workers and often refuse to listen to the critical insights they can provide about operations, working conditions, safety issues and customer concerns.
“Flight Attendants are the face of airlines. Their work is essential to keeping passengers safe, and for too long, their concerns have been ignored,” said TWU International President John Samuelsen. “The stories I have been told by our Flight Attendants are horrendous, and violence in the sky must end. Assaults Won’t Fly is a campaign to put a stop to workplace mayhem for all airline workers. We are calling for clear, consistent, enforceable policies and safety measures, to ensure all airline workers are protected on the job.”
According to the FAA, in 2021 there were 5,981 unruly passenger incidents reported, and of these only 1,113 investigations initiated and 350 enforcement actions initiated. While assaults against airline crews increased exponentially during the pandemic, unruly passengers were an issue that TWU members and other airline workers dealt with long before COVID-19, and will continue to deal with after the pandemic. TWU’s Assault Won’t Fly campaign aims to hold unruly passengers and airlines accountable to these assaults, and expands on the Union’s ongoing support for the recently introduced Protection from Abusive Passengers Act.
“I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 7433, the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “With tens of thousands of flights every single day, it is crucial that we protect airline employees and equip flight attendants with the resources needed to execute their jobs effectively and safely. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation and airline employees across the United States.”
Existing measures to protect airline workers from unruly passengers are often ineffective, and passengers who assault workers usually face no repercussions. Often, passengers are let on to another flight immediately after assaulting or harassing a worker. Through its Assault Won’t Fly campaign, the TWU aims to connect with elected officials and pass the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, which offers real solutions to protect airline workers across all airlines.
The campaign—launched in response to the surge in unruly passengers and assaults on air crews over the past two years—has also created an opportunity for airline workers to share their stories through the “Share Your Story” portal on the campaign’s website. This tool gives workers a space to share their stories and get support, as many incidents go unreported by airline workers, many of whom are afraid of being blamed or ignored. TWU intends to use responses to better track incidents, to provide support and guidance to workers, and to advocate for greater protections for all airline workers. Individuals who use the tool are offered the option to be contacted for further support.
“Unfortunately, too many of our pilots, flight attendants and crew members are dealing with unacceptable abuse from passengers – everything from kicking to spitting to biting,” said Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “This behavior is not only inappropriate, but it also puts other crew and passengers at risk. I support the Transport Workers Union of America in their campaign that aims to curb airline worker assaults and keep flights safe.”
About Transport Workers Union of America
The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) is the largest union in the US airline industry, with over 70,000 members employed by American, Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier, Envoy, Alaska, Allegiant and more. Its members work across various roles including flight attendants, baggage handlers, aircraft mechanics, ground support, and flight crew training instructors. In addition, TWU has members at several U.S. government facilities, including Fort Lee, Fort Gordon, and the NASA Kennedy Space Center. The TWU also represents more than 155,000 workers across the Railroad, Transit, Universities, Utilities and Service sectors.