JetBlue pilots have rejected a tentative agreement that would have given the airline the ability to successfully complete its long-planned partnership with American Airlines without meeting previous contractual obligations to pilots.
A statement released by the JetBlue pilot’s union, Air Line Pilots Association, stated that 53.7 per cent of pilots participating in the vote were against the agreement, citing job security as their main grievance.
JetBlue and American have been planning the strategic tie-up since July last year, which was approved by the US Department of Transportation in January 2021.
However, a 2018 collective bargaining agreement between JetBlue and its pilots restricts the airline’s ability to implement codeshares and joint venture agreements with other airlines.
The tentative agreement in question would give the airline some contractual relief against this 2018 agreement with its pilots, allowing the airline to move forward with the American partnership.
If JetBlue wants to proceed, management will need to provide “acceptable assurances” that pilot jobs are safe and valued moving forward, according to Captain Chris Kenney, chairman of the JetBlue unit of the ALPA.
“Job security, especially during turbulent points in our industry, is a main concern of every pilot,” Kenney said.
He added, “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,” Kenney concluded.
Pilots are understandably worried about the impact such a partnership will have not only on their job security but on future growth prospects, particularly in key JetBlue markets such as New York and Boston.
“We’ve never seen a codeshare at American that has led to more mainline jobs,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association representing American’s pilots.
A JetBlue spokesman said “we are disappointed with the results of the vote”, and added that the tentative agreement had been drafted in conjunction with the ALPA.
“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 spokesman added.
Meanwhile, American Airlines has reportedly told its pilots that the deal would comply with their clauses on scope, or amount of flying that can be done by other carriers.
American has said the deal, which is currently under US regulatory review, will help boost its international flying operations.