JetBlue Pilots Reject American Airlines Partnership

Filed Under: American, JetBlue

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are supposed to launch a strategic Northeast partnership in the coming weeks, whereby American will expand internationally out of JFK, and JetBlue will provide much of the feed for these flights.

Well, this has just hit its latest roadblock, as JetBlue’s pilots are trying to place limits on this partnership.

JetBlue pilots oppose new partnership

This week JetBlue pilots have rejected a tentative agreement that would have given the company contractual relief to implement its new partnership with American Airlines.

JetBlue’s chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has announced that more than 92% of eligible pilots voted, and of those, 53.7% voted against the agreement. So there was high turnout, and this was fairly narrowly rejected.

In JetBlue’s 2018 collective bargaining agreement with pilots, the company agreed that pilots could restrict certain types of codeshare and joint venture agreements. The tentative agreement that JetBlue offered pilots provided some relief from these limits in exchange for a modest pay raise and additional job security.

Captain Chris Kenney, Chairman of JetBlue’s ALPA division, said the following:

“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.”

JetBlue pilots voted against the new American partnership

What happens next?

Even though JetBlue pilots rejected this new agreement, that doesn’t mean the two airlines won’t move forward with their partnership. While the company is disappointed with the results of the vote, it plans to move forward with the alliance.

The major implication here is that JetBlue won’t be able to codeshare on as many American flights as it otherwise would have been able to, but that doesn’t mean the alliance can’t proceed at all.

The partnership between American & JetBlue will still move forward

Are JetBlue pilots right to be concerned?

Generally speaking I think pilots are perfectly justified in opposing codeshare agreements and joint ventures that would likely lead to significant outsourced flying.

For example, Delta Air Lines pilots have taken issue with several of Delta’s joint ventures, and I largely agree with them. In many regions flying has been reduced for Delta pilots, as Delta’s joint venture partners generally have lower operating costs.

Call me naive, but in the case of this partnership I’m not convinced that JetBlue pilots would be any worse off, and if anything, I think they might even be better off:

  • American will be outsourcing much of its domestic flying to JetBlue here
  • American will be expanding in long haul markets that JetBlue would likely never serve, like Athens, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv
  • This partnership is specific to the Northeast, so wouldn’t prevent JetBlue growth in any other markets, whether transatlantic, out of Florida, etc.
  • Realistically it’s American Eagle pilots who will lose the most flying here, since JetBlue will likely take over many routes previously operated by American Eagle
  • I’d argue American pilots have more to lose with current agreements, as American will likely outsource a lot of west coast flying to Alaska Airlines, and a lot of east coast flying to JetBlue

I suspect JetBlue management and the union will be able to come to an agreement, and that this is simply a further bargaining technique on the part of pilots. Perhaps we’ll see the airline sweeten the deal for pilots somehow, and that will lead to pilots voting in favor of the agreement.

I’d argue American pilots have more to lose than JetBlue pilots

Bottom line

JetBlue pilots have narrowly voted against an agreement that would have allowed the new partnership with American to proceed as planned. The airlines say they still plan to move forward with this strategic alliance, though the number of codeshare flights will need to be scaled back initially.

Odds are good that some deal will eventually be worked out between management and pilots, it’s just a question of how long it will take.

What do you think — are JetBlue pilots right to be concerned about this new partnership, or are they just seeing what they can get?

  1. From Reuters: “We’ve never seen a code share at American that has led to more mainline jobs,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association representing American’s pilots.

    The codeshare holds no appeal for me living in central NYS. The idea of connecting through JFK, involving a terminal change, and the CBP hassles (even with NEXUS/GE) is a nonstarter. I see no benefit for travelers unless the live in NYC or LI. Thanks but no thanks!

  2. I don’t see how a union vote against the alliance – especially one as close at it was – is a “bargaining technique.” That would be the case if the union leadership encouraged their memberships to vote No in order to extract more concessions from the airline. I don’t know if that happened, but the fact that the vote was so close suggests it didn’t.

  3. @upstarter: even NYC and LI passengers don’t really benefit. Airlines cooperating rather than competing generally means that prices go up. More convenient flight options to connect from elsewhere in the northeast through JFK could in theory benefit consumers – but not those in NYC and LI, because those passengers start in JFK. They don’t need the connections.

  4. Jet Blue Pilots know full well that American Airlines will bring their Black Plague of destruction with them and create a toxic environment at Jet Blue. They want no part of it, and I don’t blame them.

  5. 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.

    based on 2019 schedules (2020 is too much of a mess to draw any meaningful conclusions), Delta put its code on a lower percentage of its flights compared to what it operated than American or United. United – the US airline with the most expansive international network – had the highest percentage of longhaul codeshare flights under joint ventures.
    You need only look at the Lufthansa Group and see that United pilots are at a disadvantage.
    In contrast, Delta flew more flights to Amsterdam than KLM.

    Given that JBLU says it is going to start service to Europe, the arrangement with AAL never made a whole lot of sense based on “feeding” AA’s transatlantic flights.

    JBLU management itself confused the whole issue by starting MIA and other markets where AAL and JBLU directly compete.

    Domestically, JBLU pilots can see what has happened to ALK pilots which have no scope restrictions and ALK has freely outsourced flying to Horizon and other non-owned regional carriers.

    JBLU pilots have access to all of this data and wisely recognized that they don’t want to go down the path of very nebulous partnerships. They are taking more of a Southwest approach.

  6. “This partnership is specific to the Northeast, so wouldn’t prevent JetBlue growth in any other markets, whether transatlantic, out of Florida, etc.”

    This is the part where JetBlue pilots would disagree. Pre-COVID, there was a limited number of aircraft and pilots at JetBlue. JetBlue stopped growing at JFK/LGA only because it didn’t have anymore slots. With this partnership, AA is expected to give some LGA and JFK slots to JetBlue meaning more growth in NYC area, and potentially less growth in FL. Pilots at JetBlue all favor Florida. JFK being the least senior base for JetBlue, this partnership with American is only going to grow NYC more with more pairings needed to be based in NYC

  7. Tim,
    Go back to your troll hut. You only say that nonsense because you’re scared of a new NYC threat to your daddy delta.
    If you actually had any insight or real non-troll knowledge to add value, you’d be working at an airline instead of getting fired by Delta like you were.

    “In contrast, Delta flew more flights to Amsterdam than KLM.” — What nonsense… perhaps on ATL-AMS only… but KLM DEFINITELY flies more into AMS than Delta.

    “United – the US airline with the most expansive international network – had the highest percentage of longhaul codeshare flights under joint ventures.” — Yet another “stat” from Tim Dunn that cleverly ignores Delta’s JVs like the one with AeroMexico.

  8. Both AA and B6 are headed to Chapter 11 if the overall market does not improve in 4-6 months, and eventually will be forced into a merger. Also, AA isn’t “outsourcing” anything to B6. It is simply ceding market share it can’t capture and will trade some slots with B6 at some of the NE airports to optimize schedules. Both carriers have the highest cash burn rate in the US industry.

  9. Whoever, at Jetblue, agreed to this clause in the original contract with ALPA needs to be fired. It is so short sighted and for very limited benefits. Once the clause was in, the pilots are in their full rights to demand its implementation, even when, I agree with Ben, the new situation would be direr for American Eagle and short haul AA pilots.

    But that is a common problem with pilots (or FAs, or Maintenance staff), they are not always best equipped to see their own risks and interests. Ben Smith, the (brilliant) CEO of Air France-KLM coming himself from airline management, saw it immediately ands that is how he brought social peace within 6 months to a carrier where everybody had been at war with everybody for the previous 20 years.

  10. I’m sure the pilots have their reasons although I’m not sure what they are. In any event, as a passenger I’ve done everything possible to avoid connecting through JFK and the last thing I want as an AA loyalist is to be funneled back through JFK and now forced to change terminals for international connections. No thanks!

  11. If there were a way to change terminals without having to leave the secure area, it wouldn’t be so bad. The AirTrain is actually pretty efficient. I suspect that AA and JetBlue would set up an inter-terminal bus, but that’s never as nice as one’s own feet or a train.

  12. “Alan says:
    February 17, 2021 at 9:06 am

    Jet Blue Pilots know full well that American Airlines will bring their Black Plague of destruction with them and create a toxic environment at Jet Blue. They want no part of it, and I don’t blame them.”

    I don’t see how. It’s not an AA takeover. AA Management won’t be able to tell Jet Blue pilots and staff what to do (and I can imagine the reaction if they tried).

    There will only be a ‘toxic environment’ at Jet Blue if staff and management introduce one themselves

  13. Wings,
    Delta most certainly flew more flights between the US/Canada and Amsterdam than KLM in 2019 and that was the case for years before. In 2020, KLM flew more flights than DL but not enough to offset the greater amount of flights that DL has operated across the Atlantic compared to KLM.
    Let us know what other non-N. America joint venture hub has the U.S. carrier as the largest to/from the U.S
    And, like it or not, UA codeshares more flights on foreign carriers than any other U.S. airline. UA also has the lowest position of its domestic flights operated on its own (mainline) aircraft – the only U.S. carrier that a majority of domestic flights are not on UA mainline.

    Contracting out work to another company that you could or have done in-house is the definition of outsourcing. American could fly anything that B6 flies. The fact that AA can’t make money with its own assets is the reason this partnership with B6 ever came to light and AA mgmt. should be addressing it.
    It is most notable that AA pilots aren’t fighting this partnership.
    B6 pilots are fighting it because there is a complete lack of limits on the partnership, partly because of competitive reasons and partly because AA and B6 remain competitors and cannot share revenue, even from NYC and BOS where they can coordinate schedules
    You are right that AA and B6’ high cash burns means both airlines are trying to do all they can to generate revenue. The B6 pilots just put a kink in part of it.

    The upshot is that AA can and likely will let B6 use some slots at LGA to fly LGA flights – which B6 can certainly do cheaper than AA but doing so will mean that AA will be smaller to other LGA markets. On the flip side, B6 won’t be able to codeshare on much of AA’s NYC or BOS domestic network.
    The original justification for the partnership was for AA to use B6 flights to help feed AA international flights and that part will likely make sense because it makes sense for B6 pilots.

  14. Pre-covid, this may have been a smart move by JetBlue pilots. In a post covid world, this is insane. Now, more than ever, airlines will have to depend on alliances for survival. Stay where you are strong and work with other airlines where you are weak. AA was really ramping up international out of NYC thanks in part to this alliance. This is what AA and Alaska are doing. Alaska is strong domestic out of Seattle and AA is experienced long haul. It allows both sides to stay off each others turf while giving customers more options. Now Alaska can basically offer customers international flights without the upfront costs. AA still has Philly as a feeder for long haul and, worst case scenario, could always fall back and continue making it their main transatlantic hub. AA can bulk up their London flights and let BA allow connections to 2nd and third tier cities for AA customers. Same with Iberia out of Madrid thus still allowing plenty of options to almost anywhere without AA over extending themselves. Alliances are key in a post covid world. Everybody is giving up something. News like this makes me feel like,after everything that has happened, people STILL don’t get how dire the situation is for travel.

  15. @Dan

    I guess you didn’t read the language of the TA. Most pilots wanted to vote yes but the language was way too ambiguous and open to potential abuse by a future management team 7,8,9 yrs in the future…. tighten up the language and reinstate the previous profit sharing formula (which costs the company nothing right now) and it would pass 100%.

  16. “This partnership is specific to the Northeast, so wouldn’t prevent JetBlue growth in any other markets, whether transatlantic, out of Florida, etc.”

    Aka their core market. They’ve already consolidated on the west coast, killing Long Beach, giving up on Ontario expansion plans, and curtailing San Diego. They aren’t expanding before this deal and they aren’t expanding after it. The pilots are rightly worried.

  17. God I hate unions and this is just one more reason why. Do your job and fly the planes. Let management run the airline.

    This won’t stop anything but the Union reps have to justify their salary (paid out of member dues). Given the relatively narrow vote (57% is low – not uncommon to see union votes 90+% if leadership issues a direction) this isn’t a major issue for most pilots.

    Hope the union trolls go away!

  18. Tim,
    Your backtracks never cease to amaze.

    First off. You say delta flies more to Amsterdam from anywhere than even KLM, now it’s been narrowed to US/Canada, not even the full AF/KL/DL/VS JV scope. Which, since you don’t seem to know, the JV includes everything KLM flies to North America, Central America, and Northern South America. So yeah… keep dreaming if you think Delta flies more to AMS vs KLM within their Joint Venture or, from your original post, anywhere.

    Then you write this — “Let us know what other non-N. America joint venture hub has the U.S. carrier as the largest to/from the U.S”

    Another redirect to a statement no one said or even implied — Nobody ever said Delta doesn’t fly a lot to AMS (frankly, everyone knows quite well that their pilots complain about that) but Delta isn’t the largest carrier to AMS within the Joint Venture and certainly not the biggest altogether like you initially said. Next topic.

    And yet again, you know you’re clearly wrong about Codeshares flights within a JV like your initial statement so now you’ve redirected the conversation to “any codeshare” by United makes them the biggest user of codeshares altogether… which, shocker, Star Alliance is huge and Skyteam is basically useless compared to Star. Of course United has a lot of codeshares, that doesn’t mean they’re structured under a JV like the many many Delta JV codeshares. Trying to act as though Delta is some management team concerned with Delta jobs is ridiculous when Delta’s entire international strategy is based around wasting billions of dollars in equity stakes and building more JV-based codeshare opportunities. The only reason they don’t do more is their pilot contract.

    Frankly, this is a dumb argument, but it’s just really annoying the way you troll every AA-related thread across the world wide web sharing disinformation or trying to be clever by leaving out the tiniest wording to make your fake data seem useful and relevant.

    Here’s hoping Lucky ends up banning you and your endless Delta propaganda diatribes like and Crankyflier did.

  19. Wings,
    Since your last statement is not even accurate, it is pretty obvious that you are motivated by trying to silence any knowledgeable and balanced voice.

    Ben is a balanced voice. And he welcomes a diversity of thought.

    Instead of arguing about what anyone can clearly see regarding DL-KL, how about you answer the question re: what other non-US carrier joint venture hubs have the U.S. carrier as the largest carrier regardless of whether you include the U.S. and Canada or not. Specifically, there is no way that anyone can legitimately see UA pilots as benefitting when it has a joint venture with multiple LH Group airlines – all of which fly more flights from every one of their Euro hubs to the US than UA does.

    DL pilots have been by far the most aggressive in protecting the scope they have; they don’t have any less than AA or UA but DL pilots have been more aggressive and successful in defending the scope restrictions that DL pilots have. I have never said that DL hasn’t violated its pilot scope; I have said they done the best job of settling violations and in bringing more work back to DL pilots.

    NO other U.S. airline has shrunk its regional carrier fleet to the benefit of Delta pilots while also getting work for Delta pilots. Since you mentioned AM, you do realize that Delta flew nearly all of AM’s US flights for months during covid? Same thing happened while VS was short of aircraft due to 787/Rolls-Royce engine problems – which Delta Tech Ops fixed at RR’s expense.

    The fact that UA codeshares on more partner international flights and UA – an extention of CO’s strategies – has the lowest percentage of domestic flights operated on UA mainline aircraft – proves why scope matters and how easy it is to permanently never be able to recover from it.

    The point of all of this and the relevance to the discussion about B6 is that B6 pilots rightly decided that it is not getting into the scope clashes that have repeatedly gone on between legacy airlines and their pilot unions – and those 3 actually have scope restrictions. AS pilots have virtually none – and B6 pilots want nothing to do with it. With an eye toward international flights, B6 pilots can see the risk of manipulation – and they said they want nothing to do with it.

    You and others don’t get to bully people off of platforms because they provide information that you don’t want anyone else to see just because you don’t like those facts.

    Independent people – including B6 pilots – can figure it out. They don’t trust their own management and they rejected the contract that they were offered which was a mishmash of gives and a few hopes of takes . Given that AA and UA have and continue to expand the use of regional jets, the biggest threat to B6 is from AA’s regional carriers.

    Argue what you want but B6 pilots – not me – put a significant lasso on the AA-B6 partnership which, as Ben notes, might be resolved by more money – but most pilots aren’t willing to sell scope for any price.

  20. Enjoy your night and keep trolling. It’s all you know how to do.

    Plenty of people on this site and others are fans of a great airline, Delta, but they don’t make up fake facts and randomly go off on American & United in the most bizarre ways to make up for some weird sense of airline insecurity.

    I’m not going to start on your redirect/misdirection random “answer the new question” that no one even ever said when you don’t even know what makes up the DL/AF/KL/VS Joint Venture and can’t even start to defend your statement that Delta flies more to AMS than any other airline, much less even within the JV with KL/AF or the changed statement from JV Codeshares to just simple codeshares.

    Ben is a great author, but I’m sure he’ll find out, as Cranky did, that Tim Dunn’s “diversity of thought” only applies when everything is pro-delta. Your baseless attacks on Cranky’s business and family were shameful, at best, which is why you were banned.

  21. @AC

    The JB Union leadership were pushing this TA nearly as hard as management and it still failed. And yes pilots care about scope more than payrates.

  22. We can agree that Ben produces a diversity of articles; I reply to some.

    Ben’s statement about concerns from DL pilots about scope violations is as AN EXAMPLE.

    I bring verifiable facts and expand on the discussion which the blog author started. This isn’t about any pro- or anti-anything bent. Whether you want to argue about it or not, DL has done the best job of protecting its employees’ jobs but it certainly isn’t perfect.

    When it has violated scope – including for having Airbus deliver a new A350 which should be done by DL pilots – DL settled the grievance.

    Of course you want to drop the question about the size of U.S. carrier operations in their joint venture non-US hub because you can’t find an example where AA or UA operates a higher percentage of flights than DL does at AMS – regardless of whether you include S. America or not.

    If you want to include the AM-DL joint venture, them make sure you don’t forget AC-UA.

    All you do by arguing the point is prove why B6 pilots chose NOT to approve the American/JBLU codeshare agreement.

    And that rejection will diminish the size of what AA and B6 can do or cost them more to get it.

  23. Shoeguy

    Might want to get your facts in line before popping off with incorrect statements.

    JetBlue is burning 6 million a day. They have 5.1 billion in the bank. Do the math it’s not 4-6 months till bankruptcy. Also I’m pretty sure 6 million is a whole lot less than 30 million a day in cash burn as American has. Southwest is currently 19 million and delta is at 12 million.

    Also JetBlue management stated they will be proceeding forward with the NEA. The deal is still going to happen.

    Lastly. The TA offered a 2% raise in 2022 while reducing the total line value by 6%. So effectively taking a 4% pay cut. This deal lasted for 9 years. Great for JetBlue and pilots for the first “before American goes into bankruptcy”. Second they go into bankruptcy and emerge a cheaper option, then comes the whipsaw for the JetBlue pilots for the next 6-7 years.

    So before you start to speculate, how about reading the actual TA and agreement, and actually look at the financials of a company before posting ridiculous and false narratives.

  24. @Tim Dunn stop making random claims about AA and UA without true data. Pre-COVID, United flew 3 daily flights to BRU. Brussels Airlines flew 2 daily flights to the US.. So United flew a HIGHER percentage of flights than Brussels Airlines.

  25. @insider
    forgive me for forgetting about BRU – but that is exactly why I asked wings to list other carriers. At 3 flights/day vs 2, that qualifies – but SN or whatever they are called this month hardly qualify as a major joint venture partner.

    But, facts are facts, and I am glad you actually brought them forward rather than arguing and trying to attack other users.

    Btw, to Wings, I am glad that OMAAT is moving to a “verified and registered user” format in order to reply to reply to posts here. Other sites need to adopt this format in order to eliminate drive by, anonymous slams on other users, or the inclusion of politics, sexual slams and other inappropriate conduct. Perhaps I missed it but I don’t see JetBlue or B6 in ANY of your replies.
    The cutover can’t come soon enough.

  26. Keep dreaming, Tim. I’m not the one who’s been banned from several websites.
    You’re the internet troll and there are actual facts to prove it.
    And I replied to the claims you actually made about Delta at AMS which were never true. They’re not the biggest carrier at AMS as you actually said and they’re also not the biggest carrier to AMS within the JV. I don’t have time to go route by route to find out if delta is the biggest carrier to AMS from the US alone because I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. It’s also not what you claimed or what I replied to.
    I’m not going to go down your weird road of asking a separate question three replies later that no one asked then have you berate me for not replying to something no one ever asked or claimed.
    There’s a reason you get banned on so many sites. Then you make it worse using fake handles related to your dumb sleeping cat. Don’t try acting like you’re some beacon of using your real name. You are not and you know that.
    Many People call you out for using fake facts and claiming truth. Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true. Try facts.

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