United Airlines Holdings Inc. packs its charter flights for sports teams with young, blond crews and bars older flight attendants from working the plum routes, according to a new lawsuit.
In so doing, the airline bases the value of workers “entirely on their racial and physical attributes, and stereotypical notions of sexual allure,” according to two veteran flight attendants who sued Friday in California.
The attendants — a Black woman who has worked for the airline for 28 years and a Jewish woman with 34 years of tenure — say that they both tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get assigned to work the charter flights.
In a statement released Saturday, United highlighted its track record on diversity and inclusion.
“While we cannot comment on this ongoing litigation, the flight attendants included in our sports team charter program are largely representative of our overall flight attendant population in regards to age and race,” the company said. “Importantly, flight attendant eligibility to work a charter flight is based solely on performance and attendance and has nothing to do with age, race or gender.”
United has contracts to provide air travel for some three dozen teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Collegiate Athletic Association, according to the lawsuit. Attendants who work those flights earn more and are provided with premium accommodations. They also sometimes get tickets to games, including playoff and Super Bowl tickets, and “extremely valuable” infield passes, according to the lawsuit.
Sharon Tesler and Kim Guillory said they were told by supervisors that they were unable to get work on the charters because they weren’t on “preferred” lists that were based on team preferences, according to the complaint.
They said they later discovered that young, white blond attendants — with less seniority — were given the assignments.
United said the average age of flight attendants on its sports team charters is 46, that the average tenure of such attendants exceeds 19 years, and that it has a higher percentage of African Americans in its sports team charter program than in its overall flight attendant population.
According to the women in the complaint, “United has created a despicable situation.” They said they lodged complaints with the airline but were ignored.
United Airlines “has adopted and continues to implement procedures that are designed to ensure that young, white, blond/blue-eyed, female employees receive positions with the charter program, while more senior, and Black and Jewish employees such as plaintiffs, do not,” they said in the complaint.
The women are asking for monetary, including punitive, damages.
The case is Guillory v. United Airlines, Inc, 20-civ-03889, in Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo.
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