JetBlue union dispute adds a big wrinkle to American Airlines partnership plan

Feb 17, 2021

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Despite Alaska Airlines being on the cusp of joining American in the Oneworld alliance, AA is planning to join forces with another major U.S. carrier: JetBlue.

The so-called “Northeast alliance” will enable American Airlines to add its flight number to JetBlue flights, and vice versa — an AA flyer could book a single ticket from Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) to New York-JFK on JetBlue, for example, and then continue onto American’s new nonstop flight to Tel Aviv (TLV).

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American and JetBlue secured approval from the Department of Transportation last month, but there are still plenty of details left to work out — including getting a buy-in from JetBlue’s pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association, or ALPA.

Related: JetBlue’s Mosaic status updates for 2021

Unfortunately, that particular detail just hit a notable snag, with 53.7% of eligible ALPA members voting against an agreement that would allow JetBlue to move forward with the partnership as planned. As Capt. Chris Kenney, chairman of the JetBlue unit of ALPA, explained in a statement:

“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.”

Given the pandemic’s ongoing impact on the aviation industry, it’s certainly reasonable for JetBlue pilots to be concerned about their jobs. The union is insisting that the airline provide more job security before it approves the deal.

Related: JetBlue’s overhauled fare structure

While JetBlue was unable to detail the implications of this week’s union vote, a spokesperson did provide TPG with the following statement, indicating that it would move forward with the partnership either way — at least in some capacity:

“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.”

It’s not yet clear what impact the union vote will have on JetBlue’s ability to participate in the planned Northeast alliance. There may be restrictions on the number of flights JetBlue customers can book on American Airlines, for example, or the partnership could end up moving forward as originally planned, if JetBlue pilots are able to come to a deal.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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