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Flight Attendants

October 02, 1994

Re the Sept. 21 article on Japan Airlines and its new flight attendant hiring plan, I feel compelled to set the record straight about U.S. flight attendant salaries in comparison to theirs. I am a flight attendant for American Airlines and am currently in my fifth year of service. Last year my annual gross salary was just shy of $20,000. (I am a full-time employee and work overtime when I can fit it into my schedule.)

The article stated that "at JAL, an average attendant's wage of $80,000 year is about twice as high as pay for attendants on U.S. airlines, according to company officials." Try four times! I find it shocking that any airline attendant is paid that much anywhere. If it's true, then wonderful for them. I can't say I'm not envious.

For the record, I can speak for American Airlines attendants and tell you that more than three-quarters of our attendants are B-scale and make less than $30,000 per year. It's true that a few years back some of our newly hired flight attendants on reserve based in New York City actually qualified for food stamps. We went on strike last November for better wages and work rules and although we did not lose our jobs, our contract has still not been settled. It is currently going through binding arbitration with federally appointed mediators.

A-scale flight attendants are the only ones who earn annual salaries in the $40,000 range. Once they retire or quit, they will be gone forever, taking their salaries with them. We B-scalers who stick around long enough to make it to the new A-scale rate of pay will be looking at a whole new salary scale, designed to keep us working longer and harder for less pay in the long run.

ELEANOR P. BELL, Los Angeles

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