JetBlue’s Pilots Revolt Over Airline’s Operational Meltdown, Vote ‘No Confidence’

JetBlue’s pilots have formally voted ‘no confidence’ in the airline’s Senior Vice President for System Operations, after miserable flight operations and terrible recovery efforts in recent weeks and months.

This isn’t parliament. An airline executive who loses a no confidence vote isn’t honor-bound to resign.

I don’t have confidence in JetBlue operations either at this point. But the pilots union literally just ratified a contract with the airline this month. I don’t think the union comes off well here.

  • Are they just discovering they have operational concerns with the airline in (checks notes) the past two and a half weeks? (In which case they don’t look very perceptive about their own airline)

  • Or are they just engaging in cheap talk? (In which case their pronouncements can’t be read with much weight going forward).

Given that the contract was just voted on, perhaps they should have considered insisting on changes from the airline during that process? In other words, the issue with airline operations is something the union could have brought up YESTERDAY.

And talk about weak sauce, ALPA is focusing their ire, and seeking responsibility, from a… Senior Vice President.. and not from the airline’s CEO or President. Their vote of ‘no confidence’ doesn’t even call for the VP’s removal, just to ‘fix operational problems’.

In contrast, American Airlines pilots had a clear way of expressing no confidence in leadership during bankruptcy – slowdown, work-to-rule – back in fall 2012. That’s one of the things that made it harder for Tom Horton to stay on as CEO, and made it easier for Doug Parker’s US Airways to acquire the airline.

American unions ultimately, formally, threw in with the effort – a move they’ve come to regret. Horton was part of the Gerard Arpey era and trust with employees had been burned more than once making it hard for union leaders to see what was in their members’ best interests.

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. Bill O’Reilly accused JetBlue of booking flights on a schedule they knew they couldn’t keep. We can say what we want about Bill O’Reilly — won’t change that he has a lot of influence, a lot of followers who will hate JetBlue just because he says so. And these followers are typically older wealthier Republicans who have a lot of money. Money talks and JetBlue is going to walk as in not fly.

    Recently I had the choice of 55k AA award in Flagship Business (A321T) or 65k AA award in JetBlue mint with a single seat and a door. Went with AA

  2. Your understanding of the Jetblue contract deal from a few weeks a good is a bit off. It wasn’t a contract it was a vote on if the pilot group was going to accept an arbitrated settlement cause of perceived scope violations due to the NEA. Contract becomes amendable I think august 1st but negotiations probably wont start until the spirit thing works its way out cause both groups will have to negotiate a JCBA.

  3. Jetblue has been pushing more flights than than they have staffing to handle. This is not just in regard to flight/inflight crews. It goes all the way down to customer service, ramp, and maintenance crew as well. Alex Battaglia is an idiot on top of it and should have been fired long before he got promoted to the position he currently holds.

  4. The common thread with all these airlines is ALPA. Irs going to be a great summer with all these childish pilots stamping their feet!

  5. Gary: the writing of this article is clear you have little to no understanding of the fact that there is no relationship between the Vote of No confidence and the Ratification of LOA17 that the pilots voted for a few weeks ago. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other and LOA17 was only in play to settle up the dispute about the Northeast agreement. Nowhere was there negotiating on any other sections or topics. It’s vote yes and stamp approval of the NEA or vote no and see where the arbitration process goes from there. I beg the media to stay away from these topics as it only further clouds up what we do and what we fight for. JetBlue pilot contract is up for negotiation in a few months and has already started.

    Chris : Are you an airline pilot ? If so, I can understand if you’ve been through a lot and view other pilots as childish. I agree to an extent unions overstep their bounds. Please don’t speak for us all. It’s a wonderful job, I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I can say that in general pilots are a group of incredibly good characters who work hard and tirelessly to fly you and your families so consistently safely around the world. Childish… no. Sometimes fed up and needing to spill frustration to corporate leaders in hopes for change. Yes.

  6. @ayenus. I’m on JetBlue’s new MINT and it’s incredible. You missed out big time !! JetBlue has had issues but they will improve.

  7. SMR,
    you clearly are willing to hold out hope for B6 operations a whole lot longer than most reasonable people. B6 has been at the absolute bottom of the US airline industry for years – consistently longer than any other airline. Consumer complaints are multiples of times higher than other airlines.

    The fanciest onboard amenities mean nothing if an airline can’t get you there at similar rates and within the same time frame that every other airline is expected to adhere to.

    It takes far longer to fix a reputation than to have maintained it the first time.

    Given that your airline is fixated on acquiring and dismantling NK, it is doubtful that reliable operations will be anything that B6 will deliver anytime soon.

  8. @SMR you clearly don’t understand, the union could have insisted on changes as a condition for sign off on the NEA and did not.

  9. What changes ? The Company is already hiring ground crew at a record rate. They have reduced schedules to help improve the operation in the meantime. What changes could the pilots negotiate that are “contracted “. The corporate team is 99.9% responsible for the meltdowns but they aren’t issues that can be settled in contract negotiations.

  10. One day media can go back to just telling the news. Headline. JetBlue Union unhappy with state of Operations. Or.. JetBlue Union calls for Vote of no confidence. Instead you get to read such a trashy headline … I know a lot of JetBlue pilots who have not revolted. There hasn’t even been a picket. Such a shame how the media portrays reality.

  11. Gary

    LOA 17 is not a new contract….it was a settlement of a contractual dispute w/r to the NEA and provided narrow relief in a few sections of the CBA.

  12. Folks are missing the point, ALPA signed off on this settlement and prioritized what they were going to get in exchange for agreeing to the NEA. They had leverage and chose how to use it, and they didn’t use it for what they’re complaining about now.

  13. Gary –

    Unions don’t dictate how an airline runs their operation. They can “insist” all they want. Ops is run (dictated) by management. End of story. Bad management is (solely) to blame.

  14. The financial results that B6 just released indicate that ALPA’s concern is real – and they had no way of knowing the company’s financial performance at the time they signed an LOA for a totally different reason.
    JetBlue not only reported operating margins for the 1st quarter near the bottom of the industry – in line with American and United – and probably will not be profitable in the 2nd quarter when a number of airlines will post double digit operating margins.

  15. @Gary

    JB has not been the jewel of operational integrity lately. Passengers are frustrated, pilots and flight attendants are equally frustrated with the situation. Pilots then make a public statement blaming who they feel is the one most responsible and you throw in a red herring about an LOA that was about to be ruled on by an arbiter (the pilots have just started section 6 no less). I respectfully understand “pride of authorship” but your analysis is uninformed as many here are trying to tell you. Management runs the airline, determines where resources are required, how to staff, marketing…. CBAs (and LOAs) are about work rules, payrates and such.

    To put it in another way when crew have to routinely wait on hold 2+ hrs on the phone to bring up operational issues that would’ve prevented a cancellation if only the call was answered in the first 30 minutes (now multiply that scenario several time a day). That has nothing to do with an LOA or CBA.

  16. Pilots try to call out a problem. Gets bashed here by anti-union types for:
    1. Not calling out the problem sooner.
    2. Calling out the problem.
    3. Union.

    Let’s hope the sunlight disinfects what everyone here seems to agree is an issue.

  17. Knew it was a job action by pilots with all those cancellations on Sunday. As a long time JetBlue flyer (2003-Present) watched B6 grow and recently heard the company has over 5000 pilots alone. Looks like management can’t handle the contraction and rapid expansion of routes during the Covid event these past two years. Reminds me of my airline days (BN) in the late 70’s with Deregulation when the C.A.B. allowed the existing airlines and the new startups to fly into cities wherever they can.

  18. Jerry,

    Nope no job action, actually quite the opposite, in fact pilots are picking up overtime at ridiculous rates (more than at any point in history) but that’s just a bandaid. So it’s the exact opposite of a job action! In point of fact it’s exactly what you stated later in your post:

    “ Looks like management can’t handle the contraction and rapid expansion of routes during the Covid event these past two years”

    And if you listened to the quarterly earnings call that’s precisely what they stated as the big picture problem.

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