Its time to take a stand
If you consistently read my blog or you have read my book, you will know how much I have loved my career. I fell deeply in love years ago and hoped I would always feel that way. Well, like any relationship we have in our lives- things don’t always stay the same or turn out the way we want them to. And sometimes, someone, something or a series of things happen to ultimately break your heart.
The corporate aviation industry is tough. It is competitive, money driven, inconsistent, and stressful. As a corporate flight attendant, (AKA cabin attendant) in this industry – you have to be just as tough. You sink or swim… and sometimes it feels like someone is trying to hold you under water! Like I have said so many times before, the job does have its rewards and high selling points but we need to acknowledge the other side of it. And we ALL need to do this because there will come a day for EVERYONE when something happens, and you feel blindsided, treated unfairly, or down right disrespected and it will catch you off guard if you are not prepared for it. As strong of a person I have always thought I was, I was not prepared for what recently happened to me. Let me share:
One evening a couple of weeks ago two different people contacted me in regards to a job referral. They put me in contact with a pilot that was looking to contract a flight attendant for the next day’s trip. I was given his phone number and called him. I spoke with this pilot for about 30 minutes and he officially offered me the trip, which I accepted. He gave me some background information on the client and informed me the details of the trip. He told me the departure time the next day was still unknown but to “stand by” and we would chat again in the morning. He estimated an afternoon or early evening departure. He also asked me to email over my training documents, etc. (which is a customary request prior or during a trip). I sent the documents within minutes. He also explained the catering situation and instructed me on the venders typically used for this client and the general profile highlights. We then hung up with the mutual intention of speaking in the morning.
The next day I began mentally and physically preparing for the trip. As requested by
the pilot- I also spoke to another F/A in regards to the lead pax’s profile. About 9am I received a call regarding another trip offer, which of course I turned down. At 10 am I spoke to the pilot again and he told me to stand by for the ETD- he was currently thinking it would not be in the evening. So, the rest of the day I finalized my catering and cleared by schedule for the next few days, cancelling appointments and making arrangements for this trip.
Later that after noon I receive a TEXT MESSAGE from the pilot saying this: “ Kathryn, another F/A became available for the trip so I will use your services in the future..” **As you are reading this, if you are a fellow F/a or even just any sort of professional you are probably thinking – what the hell??? First, he is TEXTING me this? And second, hours before departure he is taking me off the trip for no reason accept to use someone else..? Of course, I called him.. I stated my feelings about his choice of communication and then I said ;“ Ok, I will of course have to bill for today at least”. His response was: “ No ,that’s not my policy”. I said; “ well its MY policy as a contractor. I accepted a job you offered and a verbal contract was made. I also lost additional work by committing to you”. With no apology he said again: “Sorry, that’s not my policy”. I then asked if I could have the phone number to the business office in order to further discuss this issue. He informed me that he would not give me any further information and that HE was the person to go through… I hung up the phone. I was floored at his unprofessional behavior and attitude. Right away I called one of the two people that referred me for the trip and they were angered and surprised as well.. It was not their fault of course and I appreciated the fact that they thought highly enough of me to refer me for any job. It made me feel better to have her support though. I sat for a few minutes trying to figure out my next move with this situation. I began my research on this company and the aircraft owner, as well as my “rights” as a contract F/A. I was NOT going to let this go. Anyone that knows me also knows that I stand up for myself. I know right from wrong and was not going to allow myself to be treated with so much disrespect.
Through speaking with many other F/As I learned that this type of unprofessional behavior and disrespectful attitude goes on much more than I ever knew. It made me sad hearing those stories but it also fueled my fire to fight back! Not only did I want to stand up for myself; I wanted to stand up for my colleagues. I did not want this pilot or company to EVER pull this stunt again with ANYONE. So, I began legal action.
As of now, that is the end of my story. This situation is still new and being dealt with so the final outcome is unknown but I will tell you this- I will not stop fighting until I have won for me and for all of you.
I want this blog to be informational as well so I am going to share with you some information. Things I didn’t know until I did some research and was also given some great advice from a dear F/A friend of mine.
First, remember each situation is unique. What may work for one, may not work with another. The variables are the people involved and the severity of your mistreatment. Have you worked a trip and not been paid for it? Someone telling you “ the check is in the mail” but it never comes? Or like me- have you been pulled of a trip with no fault of your own? Have you experienced sexual harassment or any other type of mistreatment? If so, lets talk about some options you may not know you have or may feel afraid about exercising.
Harassment– We should all know by now that in this day and age-harassment of any kind is not welcomed in the work place. There are laws protecting you! The first step I would take is speaking to the person harassing you. (if it’s a co-worker). Stand up for yourself and let them know they are making you uncomfortable and it’s creating a bad working environment for you. You may find that a simple act of saying something works!! If it doesn’t, go to their boss or yours. Be assertive and professional in your approach. If you are not getting a professional response and action taken, keep climbing the ladder. Do not be afraid of losing your job. This is lawsuit grounds. Document every conversation and every situation in which you feel that you are being harassed.
You haven’t gotten paid YET–
Have you worked a trip and weeks have gone by with no paycheck? They tell you “checks in the mail” and it hasn’t come?
Step one- call the accounting department. Ask them the date the check was mailed (or direct deposited.) There is always a paper trail and this can be figured out. Sometimes so many people are involved with the trip operation that paperwork slips through the cracks. If it has been over a month or several months, its time to step it up. Make another call and this time speak to more people about it. (I would not suggest accepting another trip from them until you get paid). Climb the ladder with this too.. Someone should be able to make it right. If they don’t, you have MORE aggressive options. Tell them you will speak to the Better Business Bureau, or, that you have a right to file a mechanics lien with the Insured Aircraft Title Service. Make sure they know you are serious. This is business, and if you are a contract F/A, this is your livelihood.
Refusal to pay you
Yes, this happens.. And it’s very sad. I now know what this is like. (And so do many others). If a company ignores your invoice, phone calls, emails or down right refuses to pay you for work you have provided, do something about it. That mechanics lien I just mentioned is an option for you! First, Let me clarify what a day of WORK means in our jobs:
1. If you have actually worked on the aircraft,
2. If you have been ON CALL / stand by for a trip
3. If you worked preparing an aircraft on the ground,
Then you have worked and deserve to be paid.
In addition, travel days to or from the base you have worked out of -is also considered work. It is a day in which you are away from home and spending your money for food, transport, etc.
The day of a trip you have been offered and accepted is a day “worked “ for you. In my circumstance above, I was taken off a trip on the departure day so even if I had done nothing to prepare, it is still a day “worked” and deserves pay.
Now, don’t abuse this situation, know the difference between what you can and cant be paid for and also remember you will have to prove yourself so keep paperwork for everything.
Try to keep all conversations about trip details or contract details in writing- Emails or even TEXTS. Although the verbal contract of accepting a trip holds ground, it’s better to have the details on writing.
How does the Lien work? It’s actually pretty easy. Call the company I mentioned above and tell them you would like to put a mechanics lien on ___ tail number. They will also ask to verify the name of the company. There is one form to file out that must be notarized and then sent into their office in Omaha, Nebraska . There is also a $60 fee. This company will file the lien once they receive the original paperwork from you. And, this lien stays with the aircraft. From what I know, YOU will be the only one to give authorization to have it removed.
** Before you take this route- I suggest emailing whomever you have been in contact with and inform them of your intentions to give them the opportunity to make things right and pay you. If they ignore you or try to bully you or threaten you- go forward with the lien. DON’T engage email arguing. Don’t speak to them on the phone without the conversation being in writing, and if they are unprofessional or insulting to you- Don’t go down to their level. As hard as it is- take all emotion out of it and focus on the fact that this is business.
Plan for the best and prepare for the worst
In all of my years of flying there have only been a small handful of unpleasant circumstances. The odds are that you will have many more good experiences than bad. However, if you are prepared as much as possible for the BAD, it will make things a lot easier.
How do you prepare?
1. Knowledge is power. Knowing information- like I have stated above, is helpful. Ignorance and fear are not your friends.
2. If you fly contract, have your own written policies that you share with potential employers. In my situation, I did actually have a trip cancellation policy but the problem was that I did not get a chance or I did not act fast enough with sending this policy over and making sure it was agreed to at the time of acceptance. That does not change the fact I am still owed this money but it does make it harder for me to fight for it. As a contract flight attendant, you are running your own business. You should have business policies, professional standards, and clear communication with anyone that may employ you to work for them/
3. Always establish and maintain a professional relationship with you crew, the company you work for, and your clients. This will limit the opportunity for harassment because you have already set strong boundaries.
I am aware that we as individuals will handle circumstances differently. Some of us quietly may walk away from an unpleasant circumstance and others may choose to face it head on, work to turn it around or “make it right”. Neither person is better for their choice but I do encourage everyone to look at the big picture. One situation may turn into many. If someone mistreats you the chances are that they are mistreating others too. By walking away, you may be saving yourself a little extra stress but you may also be setting up your peers and helping to encourage bad behavior.
I was at a crossroad with my situation. I could have walked away and spared myself stress, but In my heart it didn’t feel right to take that path. I didn’t want to send the message that it’s OK to disrespect flight attendants, or women, or ANYONE. I wanted this pilot and his company to know their behavior is NOT OK. Not to sound cliché but I chose “the road less traveled”.. and HOPEFULLY that does make all the difference.
One of my favorite quotes: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything” By Malcolm X
All my love and courage,
Cobblestones and Heels