Profitable Airlines Paying Poverty Wages

May 17, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics just released 4th quarter 2011 Airline Financial Data which reveals that the nations’ major airlines are doing financially great. But yet at Terminal 4 at JFK Airport yesterday, May 16, passenger service workers being organized by SEIU 32BJ marched through the terminal to protest their low wages and lack of benefits.

BTS, a department within the federal Department of Federal Transportation, reported that the largest scheduled passenger airlines earned a 1.5 percent profit, which is 3.2 percent down from 2010’s 4th quarter. However, BTS announced that the “large airlines reported an operating profit margin as a group in each of the last three quarters…..of $504 million.”

The airlines collected $792 million in baggage fees and $567 million from reservation change fees, just from October to December 2011, according to BTS.

LaborPress readers can view the entire data report via:   


While the airlines are collecting millions in fees, passenger service workers at JFK, which include security officers, wheelchair attendants, ticket checker and cabin cleaners, are earning a median wage of only $8 an hour, amounting to an annual salary of $16,640.

To add irony to insult, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the region’s three major airports, pays its own workers better wages with benefits like employer-paid sick days, vacation and health care, according to the union.

Roughly 67,000 passenger service workers work at the three major airports, and of those, 14,634 are employed by contractors hired by airlines to provide passenger service. The remainder work for contractors hired by the Port Authority.  
Yesterday’s march, the first of a series of upcoming events, and the union’s organizing is to ensure that the passenger service workers’ pay matches that of the Port Authority workers, which is about $17 an hour, depending upon the job title.

After marching through the terminal, the workers gathered outside with T-shirts inscribed with “Together We Rise” and listened to different speakers that included Council Member Jumaane Williams, a JFK passenger service worker who is a parent to a young daughter and is having a difficult time providing for her because of his low wages and clergymen, among others.  marc@laborpress.org  

May 17, 2012

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