***Update on 02/17/2020 @ 16:34 UTC – Inserted statement from JetBlue***
On Tuesday, February 16th, JetBlue’s pilots have rejected the JetBlue-American Airlines partnership. The setback will delay JetBlue and American’s partnership slightly as JetBlue’s pilots want to ensure their jobs are safe amid the partnership.
JetBlue’s pilots reject American partnership
In a statement released on February 16th, JetBlue pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), have rejected a tentative agreement that would move JetBlue’s partnership with American Airlines further.
Over 92% of eligible voters participated in the voting. 53.7% of pilots voted against ratifying the tentative agreement.
Captain Chris Kenney, Chairman of the JetBlue unit of ALPA, stated the following:
“Job security, especially during turbulent points in our industry, is a main concern of every pilot. We train for years and spend nights far from home in order to be a pilot. For any agreement to proceed, JetBlue management must provide acceptable assurances that our jobs are safe and valued for years to come.”
JetBlue offered Simple Flying the following statement:
“We are disappointed in the results of the vote. JetBlue and ALPA worked together on this tentative agreement to achieve much-needed cost savings during this unprecedented time. We are committed to our alliance with American Airlines and plan to move forward so we can deliver its benefits to both crewmembers and customers. The alliance allows JetBlue to grow in the northeast with new routes and destinations, getting our crewmembers flying again as we recover from the impact of coronavirus.”
What the tentative agreement would have done
JetBlue’s 2018 collective bargaining agreement with its pilots restricts JetBlue’s ability to implement codeshares and joint venture agreements with other airlines.
The tentative agreement would have given JetBlue some relief from those restrictions with respect to the American Airlines partnership. In exchange for 10 years of relief, the pilots would receive an additional pay raise and some enhancement in job security.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has already approved the American-JetBlue partnership. This partnership requires the two carriers to divest some of their slot positions while also limiting some of their communication.
What JetBlue pilots want
Capt. Kenney was clear in what the airline’s pilots want:
“JetBlue pilots fought for years to achieve the security provided in our contractual scope, and the pilots are committed to JetBlue’s long-term success. If JetBlue wants this full partnership with American to be implemented and successful, they will need the pilots to be part of it. To do that, JetBlue management must show the same level of commitment to its pilots with contractual assurances that protect our jobs and provide meaningful career improvements. We stand ready to work toward an acceptable resolution of these issues.
JetBlue’s pilots are mostly concerned about ensuring they get to keep their jobs and access future growth.
JetBlue’s partnership with American is unlocking some new routes for American Airlines, including from New York to Rio de Janeiro and Athens. However, JetBlue pilots want to ensure that JetBlue pilots have a shot at flying some of the airline’s Airbus A321LRs and A321XLRs on a transatlantic mission.
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In addition, pilots want to ensure that JetBlue is not going to cut down on flying out of Boston or New York, which is likely not going to be that big of an issue since American is trying to move away from 50-seater operations at New York. JetBlue is poised to get a greater position out of LaGuardia while sacrificing their JFK position slightly.
For now, JetBlue’s pilots have slammed the brakes on a deeper JetBlue-American partnership until the pilots can get additional job security guarantees from JetBlue.
What do you make of JetBlue’s pilots rejecting the tentative agreement letting JetBlue and American move forward with their partnership? Let us know in the comments!