Flight attendants win one million yuan in compensation after massive pay cut

Twenty-one flight attendants were on 9 March awarded a total of one million yuan in compensation after their monthly pay was slashed from 10,000 yuan to just 800 yuan.

A Beijing court found that Xinhua Airlines, a Beijing-based subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, had no legal grounds for cutting the cabin crew’s salaries in September 2008 and ordered it to make up the shortfall in wages. In their lawsuit, the flight attendants had asked for an additional 25 percent of their wages in economic compensation, but they expressed satisfaction with the outcome, sending a silk banner to the Shunyi district court, near the airport, with the inscription that the law had been enforced fairly, honestly and with integrity.

The flight attendants claimed in their lawsuit that they had always received excellent evaluations from the airline until September 2008 when the company arbitrarily raised its examination standards. The 21 crew members were suddenly told they had failed the exam, were no longer qualified to fly and were sent for “retraining.” While waiting for “redeployment,” they were placed on the company’s minimum subsistence allowance of 800 yuan a month.

During the trial, Xinhua Airlines claimed it was entitled to make its own work arrangements for its employees. Due to the global financial crisis and high oil prices, it said it had been forced to reduce its flight schedule and cut the number of active cabin crew. It also claimed the 21 attendants had been removed from active duty as part of a company plan to improve the overall quality and skills of cabin crew. The airline claimed that because they were not flying, the 21 attendents should not be paid their original salaries.

The court found the company’s argument confused and contradictory, and ruled in favour of the plaintiffs. The airline will appeal the judgment.
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