JetBlue Pilots Won’t Face Involuntary Furlough Until May 2021

JetBlue’s 3,600 pilots are today breathing a sigh of relief after it was revealed yesterday that the airline had reached an agreement with its pilots’ union to avoid involuntary furloughs until May next year. A memo sent by ALPA to its members said this was “the highest level of codified pilot protection” that had been seen in the industry to date.

Jetblue grounded planes
Despite the challenges facing the airline, JetBlue has secured its pilots’ futures until May next year. Photo: Getty Images

Pilots protected until May

JetBlue has reached an agreement with its pilots’ labor union, which will enable it to avoid involuntary furloughs until May 1st, 2021. The news was revealed in a memo sent to pilots yesterday, as reported by Reuters.

The chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) voted to approve an agreement which the memo said,

“…protects all JetBlue pilots from involuntary furlough — under any circumstances — until May 1, 2021.”

The deal could be reversed if demand rises faster than expected. Photo: JetBlue

Within the memo, it stated that ‘short term changes’ were agreed, including an ‘earlier snapback’ if demand resumed faster than is currently being forecast. ALPA also assured its members the deal did not change anything within their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) or any significant modifications to work rules. ALPA concluded that,

“In this environment, this is the highest level of codified pilot protection in our industry to date.”

JetBlue, Bookings, TSA Passengers
ALPA considers this to be the highest level of pilot protection to date. Photo: Getty Images

As a result of the news of this exceptional protection for its pilot workforce, shares in JetBlue rose 3.3% in early trade today. Of its 21,000-strong workforce, approximately 3,600 are pilots. These workers will be relieved that their jobs are protected during these incredibly uncertain times.

Simple Flying reached out to ALPA, who told us,

“The economic impact that COVID19 has had on our industry has been profound for the airline pilots who keep our skies safe and our economy strong. Airline pilots have been on the front lines of this public-health crisis and were part of the first wave of those directly impacted by the associated economic fallout.

“ALPA leaders at JetBlue have worked diligently with airline management on ways to mitigate the negative effects that the recent economic downturn will have on their pilots. After thorough and productive discussions, the ALPA JetBlue pilots were able to secure strong pilot furlough protections in this agreement.”

Relief for pilots

As a recipient of funding through the CARES Act, JetBlue has been barred from undertaking layoffs of its workforce until the end of September. The situation is the same across the majority of major US carriers, including American, United, and Delta.

Workers in the industry had been fearful of mass layoffs come October 1st, as the industry struggles to fight its way back from the COVID-19 crisis. For JetBlue’s pilots, at least, this move effectively secures their jobs for seven additional months, over and above that which the CARES Act bound them to.

American Airlines, Boeing 777, Grounded
American Airlines is looking at an oversupply of thousands of flight attendants. Photo: Getty Images

For other US airlines, however, the outlook is not so rosy. American Airlines said on Tuesday this week that it foresees a surplus of between 7,000 and 8,000 flight attendant come the fall. A staff note shared by Jill Surdek, senior vice president of flight service, said that,

“This does not mean we’ll furlough that many flight attendants, but it is an overage we will need to address. Our goal is to reduce this number as much as possible through voluntary options and working with the unions.”

Delta, too, has warned its workers that they are facing an oversupply. Specifically, the airline said it would warn more than 2,500 of its pilots that they could be furloughed and would be encouraging some to take early retirement.

The situation at JetBlue is positive and is in line with the airline’s ‘people-first’ focus. Let’s hope a similarly good outcome can be achieved for the rest of its employee base.