Return to Your Rights as an Employee

Suitcase Searches

Immediate Actions

  • Never voluntarily submit.
  • Submit only with direct order under protest.
  • Demand a witness of choice.
  • Contact a Union Representative immediately.

AFA has consistently opposed searches of the belongings and person of Flight Attendants for obvious reasons. It is an embarrassing and humiliating experience to have your privacy invaded by having your personal effects exposed. In addition, it is insulting to be suspected of theft or transporting drugs. In suitcase searches, the innocent have cause for outrage. Arbitrators, however, have ruled that with reasonable cause, the company may conduct a search of an employee's belongings. These arbitration rulings have in mind a company's right to protect its property from theft or illegal drugs. If you are ever confronted with a demand to submit to such a search, you should:

  1. Demand the presence of a qualified witness (preferably from the Union Grievance Committee) before you submit to any search or answer any questions. Remember, the Contract says that you have 24 hours to obtain a witness of your choice. If you are unable to obtain an acceptable witness, offer to lock your belongings in an airport office and give the key to an acceptable third party until the witness can be obtained. (See "Your Right to a Witness")
  2. In the presence of your witness, demand that the company state the reasons why they are asking to search your belongings. Remind the company official that any slanderous remarks about your taking of company property may be the basis for a lawsuit, which you will initiate against them. In addition, remind the company official that an invasion of your rights of privacy may be taking place.
  3. Ask if a direct order is being made to you to open your belongings. (See the Section "Insubordination")
  4. If the company still insists that you must open your suitcase, state that you will do so under protest. In view of your witness, allow the company official to open and inventory your belongings. Be sure to record the names of the company official(s) involved and contact your Local Council Grievance Chairperson or any of your other AFA Representatives.

Note: Though the Contract provides a right to a witness when more than one management person is present, it is advisable to request representation even in a one-on-one situation. If your request is refused, notify your Local Council Grievance Chairperson as soon as possible.

Return to Your Rights as an Employee