United Threatens to Fire Flight Attendants for Fraud

Mar 27, 2019

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For at least the second time in a month, United Airlines is accusing its staff of engaging in fraud. This time, the airline says a handful of its FAs are brokering deals to sell the best trips to international destinations to their coworkers, a practice prohibited by United.

“Over the past few months, many of you have voiced concerns about illicit trip brokering,” P. Douglas McKeen, the airline’s senior VP of labor relations, wrote in an internal memo sent to all of United’s 26,000 flight attendants and reviewed by TPG. “We have investigated these concerns and today we are joining you to take a stand against this unethical practice.”

McKeen notes that the “overwhelming majority” of the flight attendants are following the rules when trading flight pairings. “Those trades are not the issue. What we’re addressing is the growing problem of selecting, trading or parking a pairing to broker, buy or sell it to another Flight Attendant.”

The memo goes on to describe flight attendants posting on social media to give coworkers “hugs,” “kisses,” “candy canes” and “expressions of appreciation” in exchange for plum assignments on some of the best routes, generally international flights which usually pay more and are operated by better aircraft. McKeen wrote that these “coded enticements” are a violation of United’s rules and the carrier “will fully investigate and take appropriate action, up to and including discharge.”

In a statement to TPG, United confirmed the memo is accurate. “We know schedules are very important to our flight attendants, and we work closely with AFA to make sure our flight attendant scheduling is fair for all of them,” the airline said, referring to a flight attendant union.

Earlier in March, United fired at least 35 staff members for selling their “buddy pass” perks, or deeply discounted tickets that crew can give to their friends and family but are not allowed to sell for profit.

Featured photo by Mutlu Kurtbas/Getty Images.

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