JetBlue Pilots Reject Deal For American Airlines Partnership

Pilots at JetBlue rejected an agreement with the airline that would have allowed them to move forward with their new American Airllines partnership.

JetBlue Airways Corp pilots voted to reject a tentative agreement that would have given the airline contractual relief to implement its planned partnership with American Airlines Group Inc,, their union said in a statement on Tuesday.

This doesn’t mean the deal is off the table, but presumably its scope may be more limited, e.g. limitation on placing JetBlue’s code on American Airlines flights. JetBlue does say they’re moving forward,

“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,” [A JetBlue spokesperson] said.

The tentative agreement gave some relief from restrictions in 2018 collective bargaining on the types of tie-ups JetBlue could undertake in exchange for an additional pay raise and some enhancement in job security, the union said.

JetBlue’s pilots already come out ahead with the American-JetBlue alliance. For American’s pilots there’s some risk.

  • Under this deal JetBlue is going to get to use some of American Airlines’ slots at New York JFK and LaGuardia. In other word, it means more flying for JetBlue pilots.

  • If anyone should be displeased it’s American Airlines pilots, but they don’t have the contractual ability to limit it. (Pilots can always slow down an airline, they helped to oust the last American Americans CEO Tom Horton that way and push American to merger with US Airways.)

  • The bet for American Airlines is that they can sell international flights to JetBlue customers. It isn’t really that they can get JetBlue feed bringing connecting passengers to New York JFK for international flights. New York JFK isn’t going to be a great place to connect, changing terminals, and American feeds international connecting traffic through other hubs.

  • American pilots could benefit from more international flying. But American seems less likely to grow domestically in New York with this deal. So it’s a roll of the dice for American pilots, but looks like mostly upside for JetBlue pilots.

JetBlue and ALPA negotiated but JetBlue pilots rejected the agreement. The narrative spread that somehow they could exercise their veto with JetBlue to get a better deal, one with more job protections during the Covid-19 uncertainty. From their perspective, it seems, they have leverage they haven’t fully used yet.

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. absolutely great for the JBLU pilots.

    AA is trying to outsource huge portions of its network on both the East and West coasts with very ambiguous plans to swap flying between American and JBLU on the east coast and ALK on the west coast.

    Problem is that AA also includes American Eagle so JBLU pilots could give up flying to American’s carriers – with nothing in return from JBLU mgmt.

    Good for JBLU pilots.

  2. Unions are unnecessary. You want job protection? Provide value (specific productivity at a given cost) to your employer and you will never have to worry about it.

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