JetBlue Looks To Shrink, Offering Employee Buy Out Packages

JetBlue Airways is looking to shrink its staff, offering voluntary buyout packages employees including managers at headquarters. This represents a huge shift in strategy for the New York-based carrier.

  • The airline had a growth vision in partnering with American Airlines. They were using American slots in New York, and didn’t have enough planes and pilots for that and to build in Boston.

  • They saw the need for planes and pilots, and an opportunity to get larger to compete against bigger airlines and spread their fixed costs across a more sizable operation: buying Spirit Airlines.

  • JetBlue also launched a new elite status program aligned with becoming a much bigger airline and partnering closely with American.

  • Then they lost the DOJ anti-trust suit against their partnership with American. That eliminated a platform for growth.

JetBlue decided to focus on their Spirit Airlines acquisition, instead of fighting to preserve their American Airlines partnership, even though they were overpaying for Spirit, it was going to be a huge operational distraction, and they’d lost much of the upside.

Now that they lost the anti-trust suit over buying Spirit at trial, and they’ve served notice that they could formally drop the merger, it appears they’re looking to scale back and reduce expenses.

JetBlue is offering a voluntary buy out program for both frontline employees and managers, as reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC.

Key details:

  • Frontline team members can receive 2 weeks of pay per year of service up to 6 months of pay, based on years of service. The longer the service, the more pay (they want to incentivize more senior employees – who are more expensive – to leave).

  • Managers are promised 3 weeks of pay per year of service up to six months of pay, and that they will still receive any 2023 bonus due.

  • In either case, those with 10 years of service who are 45 years old or older will receive lifetime nonrev travel privileges.

This doesn’t prove they’re walking away from the Spirit deal. There would be redundancies even if they went through with it, but more likely on the management side than with frontline crew. That they’re offering to pay to reduce frontline headcount is certainly suggestive of a shift in strategy away from growth that the Spirit deal represented.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Congrats to the politicians for standing on principle. JetBlue and Spirit will not likely exist in their current form a year from now.

  2. Let’s see what Joanna comes up w/ after thinning the ranks.
    She and everyone knows that the financial bleeding has to stop

  3. Frontline ≠ union. The union work groups (FAs and pilots) are not being shrunk. This is poor “journalism.”

  4. @Concerned Reader – re-read what I wrote, I never said pilots or flight attendants are being downsized, in fact inflight is not part of this

  5. Unionized work-groups are not being offered a buy out. I repeat, those of us under APLA, and TWU are not being offered a buy-out at this time.

    Reason being, we have language in our CBA articles that would need to be triggered, and negotiated first, and the company has NOT approached either union about negotiating a buy out for the pilots or flight attendants.

  6. Yes, thanks to that ONE judge, and like the first poster said- the stupid politicians,- many, many dominos will fall & the fallout effect on real people’s lives is huge & NOT GOOD!!!!

  7. I’ve seen several of these programs over 30+ years of work. Part “B” is an up coming statement that if the company fails to meet its attrition goals, others will be released with little to no severance. This is to incentivize the rank and file to sign up as volunteers.
    Another program I’ve experienced is a job offer in another town or state during downsizing. Failure to take the offer is automatic placement in the severance program.

  8. Just for clarification,, SOC crewmembers (Dispatch, MX Control, etc) are not being offered this buy out. Also non union.

  9. Another great job by the Bag of Bones Biden Admin. and his in the pocket DOJ.
    The judge’s irrational judgement will destroy more livelihoods than it will save.
    It makes since to me to sacrifice the jobs of hard working Americans so a few people can fly on the cheap (at least for another year or so before the ULCC disappears)? Judge Young’s decision must be overturned!!!

  10. @Roger Roger SOC members are part of it, they were sent the email too because they are in the LSC(Long Island City SUPPORT CENTER).

  11. RSJ,
    B6 could have had an AA-AS style partnership with AA and NK and F9 could have succeeded but B6 (and AA) played both cards wrong and it is B6 that is paying the price – and NK will too.
    AS/HA will succeed because they don’t have the elements that concerned the government like B6/NK.
    It isn’t the government’s job to fix or wash over corporate strategic mistakes.

  12. @ Tim — How many airlines have you run? Zero. How many airlines want to hire you to run them? Zero.

  13. just like you.
    The difference is that I know what I am talking about and you can’t stand that.
    B6 has made multiple strategic errors and is paying dearly for them.

  14. If JetBlue survives it will do so as a former premium carrier. That includes more seats jammed into both cabins, modest and streamlined inflight service offerings—perhaps even the end of their vaunted LiveTV while supplanted with seatback device holders—and if they don’t already, they’ll partner with a credit card company and have their flight attendants and other agents generate peripheral revenue for the company. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they pull their vain and costly European operations. I hope they survive. They never should’ve gotten involved with Spirit and should’ve fought for the NEA with American.

  15. They should have stayed with the AA. code share agreement. It was working for everyone, including the people of NY.

  16. @ Tim Dunn — The difference is that I know what I’m taking about when it comes to airline products and reward programs. I actually leave my house and travel very frequently, mostly on airlines more premium than your employer.

  17. JetBlue needs to take the time and think about not only a course of action but what the hell is even feasible for them moving forward. JetBlue is not big enough in mass to take on the Big Three as legacy carriers, nowhere near the size of Southwest to compete against them and really lacks an identity. What JetBlue should consider is being an East Coast version of Alaska Airlines with a great operation up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida, a focus on the Caribbean out of Ft. Lauderdale and possibly San Juan. JetBlue barely has an identity in the Midwest or out in the West and the costs of developing mass in those areas takes time,finances and assets. JetBlue should have fought to retain that NEA with American in compliance with regulatory concerns and used their position at JFK and Boston to their advantage. A merger with SPIRIT was ill conceived and made zero sense. Transatlantic operations on narrowbody aircraft competing against Three Huge Joint Venture Alliance operators will be nothing but a bloodbath. JetBlue needs to return to its roots and running a Solid Operation doing what they do Best and stop trying to be like the Big Boys. Alaska is very successful at what they do, no reason that JetBlue cannot do the same. Merging Alaska and JetBlue is out of the question for many reasons and the US Marketplace does not really need one more large National Carrier, they just need better carriers. If JetBlue is hell bent on Merging/Acquiring/Growing the only viable choice is Hawaiian but that would prove to be challenging geographically and little room for error. JetBlue and SPIRIT were two very different carriers and was very bad for the consumer and only Corporate Meatheads would have thought they could pull that off without scrutiny.

  18. jetBlue always tries too hard and wants to be SOOO different. Well, look at how this is all working out for them. It’s not.
    So, which frontline employees are they trying to trim exactly?
    Doesn’t “frontline” usually mean the employees who are out working with the public? After reading the comments, I now know it isn’t the pilots or FA’s
    I think we are seeing the eventual end of jetBlue and with the stock price being so low, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

  19. Excellent article. Especially the big decision blunder by Corporate to fissile the lucrative alliance with American Airlines and to concentrate on the Spirit acquisition which was bleeding all the money from the airline with this overpriced acquisition. Then the stupidly thought out revamped of its loyalty program especially as regards the stupendous benefits to its elite customers which drained its profits. The point missed though is that the airline took the federal aid during Covid of billions of dollars to protect its employees who were all Americans but another poor decision of Corporate was to outsource its customer service ( nearly 2000 employees) to Kenya and South Africa and systematically getting rid of all its customer support employees in the USA. Greed and mismanagement killed what was a great airline

  20. From what I read about Ulta discount airlines is that the service is bare bones and all the extra fees add up.i would like to see a comparison of accural cost of a jet blue flight compared to a discount carrier to various destinations and see how much savings the discount airlines fared.

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