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Healthcare we didn't bargain for

24 Jan, 2023

Delta Flight Attendants are reporting shock at the the new changes to our already-not-great healthcare. Last year during open enrollment, Delta management communicated unilateral and universal changes to our healthcare coverage. It’s a stark reminder that without a union, Ed Bastian and management can take away benefits or shift costs to us without any discussion or transparency.

There might have been "no changes in premium," but look at the change in your prescription coverage, prescription cost deductibles, emergency room visit charges, co-pays, and more.

Management also changed the way that our insurance is administered. Some Flight Attendants and their families are experiencing a lapse in care because all the insurance numbers changed and others' doctors are no longer "in network." Other Flight Attendants are now forced to get procedures, treatments, and medicine re-approved. This can have serious consequences for our health and our compensation, not to mention the additional time it takes to sort everything out. These tactics are not new either, but they are intended to make it harder for participants in the insurance plan to use the benefits we pay for.

Healthcare is extremely important to Flight Attendants. As a result, it’s a top priority in contract bargaining. AFA Flight Attendant Negotiating Committees and professional staff devote significant expertise and resources to negotiate healthcare to ensure comprehensive, affordable, and accessible coverage. Management always seeks to raise premiums or diminish coverage.

At unionized carriers, making healthcare benefits a priority in bargaining has paid off for Flight Attendants. 

The United AFA Contract requires 5 medical plans with specific plan designs that management can't change: "The benefits described herein shall not be amended, modified, altered or terminated without the prior written agreement of the Union, except as required by law or as otherwise permitted herein." Additionally there are 6 company-offered plans. United Flight Attendants have 11 benefit plans to chose from to fit their individual needs.

Plan designs are incredibly important. Management likes to talk about how our premiums haven't gone up in years — but every year we lose coverage. We're paying the same $$ for less coverage.

Read United AFA's contractual plan designs.

Consider Hawaiian Flight Attendants’ benefits:

  • Deductible: $100 – individual / $300 -family
  • No charge for preventative/wellness visits
  • 10% co-insurance for office visits, specialists and urgent care
  • Just $2 for generic prescriptions and $2 for preferred/brand (if mail ordered) and $5 retail

For all that great coverage, Hawaiian Flight Attendants pay no more than $66.44 (per month!), and the premium for family coverage is $149.74 (per month!).

Or look at Spirit as another example. Bastian and the rest of the executives would turn up their noses to be compared to Spirit, but with the strength of collective bargaining and solidarity, AFA Flight Attendants at Spirit have industry leading benefits.

  • Spirit Flight Attendants pay just $46.17 per paycheck for an individual PPO plan.
  • Spirit Flight Attendants without kids can cover themselves and a domestic partner for $184.68 per paycheck
  • One incredible benefit is Spirit Flight Attendants can cover themselves plus any one qualified person for $230.85 per paycheck—this could be a child, spouse or domestic partner.

And what do they get for these premiums?

  • Deductible: $250 -individual / $750 -family
  • No charge for preventative/wellness visits
  • Generic prescriptions for $10, and preferred name brand for $25
  • Plus, Spirit Flight Attendants who are enrolled in the medical plan receive full PPO dental coverage at no additional cost.

Flight Attendants at unionized carriers are known to have some of the best health plans in the entire union movement.

The most important factor is that Flight Attendants at other carriers have this level of care because THEY chose to prioritize it in bargaining. Flight Attendants at each airline set their own demands, fight for them, and approve it in the final contract. It wasn’t a gift from management.

These provisions at Spirit and Hawaiian are negotiated, locked-in, and will not change unless re-negotiated and Flight Attendants vote to approve.

Don’t let management fool you into thinking any “new investments in [our] wellbeing” are a good deal. This is a classic carrot-and-stick union busting approach. Of course, even “good” changes are defined by management, not us. But they’ll also start making false threats about what we might lose soon enough. Remember - they can’t retaliate. It’s time for us to lock in what we like by voting in our union, and negotiate up from there.

When we secure our union, WE can set the terms and negotiate for the benefits WE want at Delta. Once we lock in a contract, management won’t be allowed to simply take as they please.

Let’s join our flying partners across the industry as union Flight Attendants. It's going to take all of us to rein in the rising costs of for-profit healthcare and lock in our contract. Sign a card nowand join our campaign