Cabin crew protest may hit United flights today

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am

United Airlines passengers on Hong Kong flights should expect the unexpected today. Flight attendants have threatened disruptions as part of their global protest against the company's new pension system.

'We might target one flight or one city for our strike action. We might ground a single flight or all flights, or shut down all the airline's flights [in and out] of a city for a day,' said Jack Kande, spokesman for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

In Hong Kong, flight attendants will distribute leaflets to passengers in the departure area this morning telling them about the protest.

Mr Kande said he could not tell whether flights coming in or out of Hong Kong would be disrupted. United has 10 flights in and out of Hong Kong a day. 'We hope passengers will understand,' he said.

The union is the world's largest flight attendants' union, representing 46,000 flight attendants for 22 airlines.

'We are waiting for the decision of our leaders in Chicago. It is a secret if any flight will be grounded.'

The union has been angered by the debt-stricken company's unilateral termination on June 30 of a contractually mandated pension plan. The union claims the airline's flight attendants could lose up to 70 per cent of what they hoped to receive on retirement.

United Airlines said yesterday it was committed to meeting customers' travel needs and service would not be disrupted. It said it respected the cabin crews' role in delivering a high standard of service and hoped the flight attendants' union's leaders would accept the company's repeated invitations to discuss a viable replacement pension plan for its members at United.

'AFA-represented employees are now the only employee group at United without a replacement retirement plan. United remains committed to reaching agreement with the AFA,' the company said.