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SkyWest Joins Delta in Paying Flight Attendants for Boarding

Alaska continues expansion with Skywest-operated Embraer E175s (Photo: Ian McMurtry)

SkyWest Airlines announced over the weekend that it will give flight attendants boarding pay. This makes SkyWest the second major airline in the United States, after Delta, to pay cabin crew during the boarding process. To compensate for the change, SkyWest has updated its Flight Attendant pay rates to include $23.66 per hour of boarding time, according to pay rates forwarded to Aero Crew News.

According to SkyWest’s website, the company’s flight attendants are currently guaranteed a minimum of 76 flight hours per month. If flight attendants don’t spend at least that much time in flight, SkyWest will make up the difference so that the flight attendants earn 76 hours of pay. The amount of time that flight attendants spend during the boarding process depends on how many flights they take per day, which is itself dependent on how long the flights they take are each day. But if we assume that a flight attendant takes four flights per day with 30 minutes of boarding each, a SkyWest flight attendant will earn an extra $946 per month if they fly 20 days per month with that structure.

The first aircraft painted in SkyWest Charters colors. (Photo: AirlineGeeks)

Pilots and flight attendants alike have long called for a modification to their pay scales. Generally speaking, flight crews are usually paid based on flight time. Flight attendants themselves get paid their full rate when the cabin doors close. This can be a sticking point for crews, though, as they often show up long before a flight leaves and believe they should be compensated more for the flight planning and preparation they do before they even board.

As the airline industry rebounded from the initial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, though, crews strengthened their calls for boarding time to be included in their pay rates. Flight attendants were especially vocal, as they are directly working with passengers and executing essential safety and security measures.

Delta Air Lines was the first to commit to the change, and the Association of Flight Attendants at Alaska Airlines has said that boarding pay is among negotiating items with their management. But SkyWest beat out big names such as American Airlines and United Airlines in paying flight attendants for boarding time. SkyWest flight attendants are not union members.

Compensation Aims to Fix Crew Shortages

SkyWest’s plan comes amid a severe airline staffing shortage that will challenge summer operations. The pilot shortage has been in the spotlight lately, but flight attendants are also in high demand.

Regional airline pilots’ pay has considerably increased since air travel has rebounded from the pandemic. There was a notable shift in the regional airline industry when American Airlines’ wholly-owned regionals substantially increased pilot pay, and other regional airlines followed suit to match the new rates.

A SkyWest CRJ-200 (Photo: Alan Wilson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Thus, the question will be raised whether other regional carriers will follow SkyWest’s lead and pay their flight attendants boarding pay as well. While it’s debatable whether this pay will also translate to legacies – at the time of writing, Delta is the only legacy airline to have ratified a new pilot contract since the pandemic started – but, at a time when more new crewmembers are starting their careers at low-cost carriers instead of regionals, it may be critical for other regionals to match SkyWest’s offer to continue staffing all of their flights.

SkyWest Charter Developments

SkyWest’s announcement comes just days after it formally launched a new subsidiary, called SkyWest Charter, to help alleviate the effects of the pilot shortage. This will allow the airline to operate on-demand flights for sports teams or private individuals. SkyWest has all necessary FAA approvals to launch the subsidiary.

The only outstanding approval is SkyWest Charter’s FAA commuter authority, which will allow them to operate scheduled charter flights. This will be critical for SkyWest, as this final authorization will allow SkyWest to fly the Essential Air Service contracts it holds under different crew requirement regulations.

SkyWest hopes that all these adjustments in its pay scale and business model will alleviate the challenges of the flight crew shortage. It has yet to be seen whether the changes it has made, especially the flight attendant pay update, will stick with other airlines or how much SkyWest will be able to expand its flight operations with its new charter arm.

John McDermott

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  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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