Boeing Air Transport’s “Original 8” stewardesses begin serving passengers.

United’s first stewardess training center opens in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

With the threat of war hanging over the United States, on Sept. 17, 1939, stewardesses signed up in Oakland, California to serve as nurses in World War II.


A organization dedicated to fellowship and philanthropy is founded by former United Airlines stewardess Jackie Jos Ceaser for stewardesses who were required to give up their positions when they got married. The organization is called Clipped Wings®

Air Line Stewardesses Association (ALSA) wins recognition as first union for stewardesses.

First union contract raises United stewardesses monthly pay to $155, limits duty hours, sets rest periods and established a grievance procedure.

ALSA merges with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) affiliate, the Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association (ALSSA).


At the end of 1949, United hires eight men, all from Hawaii, to serve as stewards on United flights between Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland. The first eight were chosen to represent the “8” main islands in the Hawaiian chain. They begin service in January 14, 1950.

United Air Lines stewardess Edith Lauterbach helped conduct the industry's first evacuation tests. After enjoying a scenic flight over Niagara Falls, 265 unsuspecting passengers were prepared for emergency evacuation at the Buffalo Airport. The Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory and United conducted the tests with representatives from the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
The U.S. Civil Air Administration requires cabin attendants on commercial passenger flights as cabin safety professionals
Cabin crews begin serving alcoholic beverages aboard United flights

ALPA creates two divisions, the Pilots Division and the Steward and Stewardesses Division. Nearly half of the nation’s airline safety professionals vote to affiliate with ALPA’s Steward and Stewardess Division.

The Civil Rights Act passes. Flight Attendants use Title VII of the act to challenge discriminatory policies based on gender, race, weight, pregnancy and marital status.

Ellen Church, the first stewardess dies in a horseback riding accident.

Average career for flight attendants lasts 18 months. Mandatory resignation at ages 30-35 is struck down.  
United Air Lines agrees that marriage will not disqualify a stewardess from continuing in the employ of the Company as a stewardess. This significant change is in a contractual side Letter of Agreement between United Airlines, Inc. and the Stewardesses and Flight Stewards as represented by The Air Line Pilots Association, International dated 7 November 1968. (Source: 1969-1971 Agreement, p. 97.)  
  Pressed by Stewardesses and Flight Steward Division of the Air Line Pilots Association International, courts prohibit airlines from refusing to hire males and finds United’s no-marriage rule illegal.  

United Air Lines began hiring men to be included on the Flight Attendant seniority list on domestic routes.

The modern AFA is born when ALPA’s Steward and Stewardess Division becomes the Association of Flight Attendants.  
United flight attendants are given the option to wear slacks as part of their uniform garment allocation.  
Court rules Northwest Airlines must pay female flight attendants same scale as males.
AFA challenges requirement that flight attendants stop working upon pregnancy.
Congress passes the Airline Deregulation Act giving airlines unlimited authority over routes, scheduling
and fare pricing.
Clipped Wings® opens its membership to active United Airlines flight attendants.  
Airline flight attendant weight policies are liberalized
AFA is granted charter by AFL-CIO.  
AFA prodding results in new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules requiring floor-level exit lights, less flammable cabin interiors and other cabin safety breakthroughs.  
  FAA issues policy limiting number of passenger carry-on bags.  
  Congress approves smoking ban on all U.S. flights of two hours or less.  

AFA petitions FAA to apply OSHA standards to flight attendants and a smoking ban is issued for all U.S. domestic flights.

AFA hosts first international symposium sharing ideas with flight attendants from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, South Korea, Norway, Singapore and Sweden.

FAA issues duty time regulations for flight attendants.

Representing 36,000 flight attendants at 23 airlines, AFA celebrates its first half century of achievements.

AFA’s pursuit of safety issues following the Everglades Valujet accident provokes major changes at the FAA which shifts the agency’s focus to safety which results in closer scrutiny of safety issues at start-up carriers.

AFA lobbies to limit carry-on baggage, sponsoring an industry conference on the problem and introducing a rule to the FAA restricting size and weight of carry-ons.

AFA membership tops 46,000 members at 26 airlines, residing in every U.S. state and many countries around the world.

  AFA wins four legislative victories which include:  
Whistleblower protection  
Increased penalties for crewmember interference  
Study of cabin air quality  
International ban on smoking  
Flight Attendants use onboard defibrillator to save the life of passenger Orlando McFarland.  
In the wake of the September 11 attacks that killed 25 flight attendants on four hijacked aircraft, AFA members and leaders descend on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress for airline security legislation.  AFA fights to protect thousands of furloughed flight attendants who lost their positions as a result of the terrorist attacks.  
  AFA members continue to lobby for improved security, including certification for all flight attendants and press airlines to provide mandatory safety training.  Nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 26 airlines are involved.  
  Decades after AFA leadership set forth their objectives in the AFA Constitution and Bylaws and after nearly a year-long battle on Capitol Hill, Congress passed flight attendant certification legislation on November 21.  
A majority vote of AFA members results in a merger with the 700,000 member-strong Communication Workers of America (CWA).  The merger results in member access to greater resources as well as significant expansion in the union’s ability to influence legislation critical to the preservation of flight attendant jobs.  
First Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Retired Members’ Club chartered on April 6, 2004.  
San Francisco Airport Museums Flight Attendant Symposium, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, 2004. Participants included Association of Flight Attendants-CWA – active and retired workers, United Airlines Historical Foundation, Clipped Wings, World Wings and the Flight Attendant Medical Symposium. Event proceedings archived at SFO Museums.  
  Northwest Airlines flight attendants vote to join AFA-CWA expanding membership to a total of 55,000 flight attendants under the AFA-CWA umbrella.  
AFA-CWA convinces Congress to pass legally binding seniority protection for airline workers involved in the airline mergers. The law prevents one group of airline workers from stapling another group of workers to the bottom of a seniority list and provides protection for equitable seniority integration.  
AFA-CWA pressures Congress to enact and fund the first comprehensive flight attendant fatigue study in the history of the industry.  
In the second week of 2009, Ryan International and Lynx Aviation flight attendants vote for AFA-CWA representation.  Flight Attendants at USA3000 and Compass join AFA-CWA in October and November respectively.  
The Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with its interagency Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee, grants AFA-CWA's petition to reclassify flight attendants from personal care and service workers to transportation and material moving occupations in the Federal government's Standard Occupational Classification.   This reclassification moves flight attendants into the same category as pilots, mechanics and other certified aviation workers.  
In the first 100 days of the Obama administration, former AFA-CWA president Linda Puchala is appointed to the National Mediation Board (NMB). The NMBs mission is to protect the right of employees to engage in free and fair collective bargaining in the rail, aviation and trucking industries.  
Following a rigorous and persistent campaign, AFA-CWA finally wins Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) coverage for all flight attendants.  
  Retiree Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (RAFA) receives unanimous approval of the AFA-CWA Board of Directors to become an independent unit of the AFA-CWA on April 28, 2010.  

Source: UAL Archives, Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO “More than a Half Century of Milestones, Rev. 5/2000,, Hemispheres Magazine, May 2005 “75 Years of the Flight Attendant” by William Garvey