Flight Attendant Union Honors Visionary Women For Overcoming Social Injustice Portrayed in 'Pan Am' Drama

Fictional Glamour Is a Far Cry from Reality for Aviation’s First Responders

Washington, DC – The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), the world’s largest Flight Attendant union, recognizes the season premiere of Pan Am as a reminder of the extraordinary accomplishments of Flight Attendants at the forefront of the jet age, and one step ahead of the women's rights movement:
“The premiere episode of the new Pan Am drama on ABC may be a nostalgic escape to the days before deregulation, but it also highlighted the myriad of social injustices overcome by the strong women who shaped a new career.  Weight checks, girdle checks, the no marriage rule, sexism, gender discrimination, racism – all of this was challenged by intelligent, visionary women who helped to usher in the call for social change throughout the country and around the world.

“As union members, the generation that crewed 1960s Pan American World Airways and their other airline counterparts, Flight Attendants fortified their voice to press airline management and Capitol Hill for equal rights, recognition of their work and improved aviation health and safety standards that benefit the traveling public.  Negotiating contract improvements for middle class pay, proper rest, health care and retirement benefits ensured the skilled ‘stewardesses’ set career standards that provided new opportunities for all women and men.  These safety professionals – now certified by the Federal Aviation Administration - set the stage for continued social awakening including equal benefits such as recognizing domestic partners.

“Today, nearly half a century later, we stand on the shoulders of the profession our predecessors helped to build, even as we tackle the new challenges created by an industry that increasingly demands more from Flight Attendants.  After a decade lost to bankruptcies and attacks on the career, Flight Attendants are again focused on the future of aviation and advancing the careers of cabin crew.

“The fictional, glamorized world of Hollywood’s Pan Am is a far cry from today’s realities of air travel that ditches high fashion for ‘low cost,’ jam-packed airplanes and massive cuts to Flight Attendant staffing.  Every day Flight Attendants save lives, de-escalate conflicts, and remain ever vigilant to security in a post-9/11 world. 

“Today we remain focused on improving conditions for Flight Attendants and as we have for over six decades.  We promote our role as first responder and the last line of defense in aviation security.  It’s a new day; our historical career advancements provide hope and a reminder of what we can achieve together.  In a political environment stacked against workers, Flight Attendants are again poised to make history.”

The Association of Flight Attendants is the world’s largest Flight Attendant union. Focused 100 percent on Flight Attendant issues, AFA has been the leader in advancing the Flight Attendant profession for over 65 years. Serving as the voice for Flight Attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill, AFA has transformed the Flight Attendant profession by raising wages, benefits and working conditions. Nearly 60,000 Flight Attendants at 23 airlines come together to form AFA, part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afacwa.org.

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