As the employee integration is proceeding in the newly merged entity called United, flight attendants belonging to the AFA union, which represented the group in the defunct United Airlines and the flight attendants affiliated with the IAM, the representative union of the group in pre-merger Continental Airlines battle it out at the National Mediation Board by hurling accusations against each other. This runs counter to the very principle of unionizing, whose aim is to present a united front against a much formidable adversary in the person of the employer. This paper looks into the events surrounding the controversy at United involving its divided flight attendants and the instances of failures of communication that triggered it. It also suggests measures that could remedy the deep division between the two warring groups.
In the middle of last year, two of the largest airline companies based in the United States announced a merger creating as a result the world’s biggest airline overtaking all of its closest rivals in both side of the European and North American continents. The merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines under the name United Airlines is predicted to earn a staggering $30bn annual revenue servicing about 144 million passengers in 59 countries. Despite this good news, however, there are quarters that are lukewarm to the consolidation. Consumer groups, for example, are wary that the merger would result in higher fares and less choices. On the other hand, employee unions from both the original UA and CA are worried that this would mean downsizing and lay-offs (Clark 2010). A different conflict involving flight attendants has been brewing, however, within the newly merged company that involves representation issues more than employment benefits concerns.
Before the merger of the two airlines, the flight attendants of the defunct UA, numbering about 12,900, were represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA hereafter) while