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Flight Attendant Union Pits Itself Against New Airline From Founder of JetBlue, Alleges Possible Age Discrimination

Flight Attendant Union Pits Itself Against New Airline From Founder of JetBlue, Alleges Possible Age Discrimination

America’s largest flight attendant union with more than 50,000 members at airlines including United, Frontier and Alaska has vowed to stop serial aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman’s new airline employing university students who also happen to work part-time hours as flight attendants on a four year term.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has likened the employment style as akin to gig economy jobs such as drivers at Uber and Instacart. “On the surface, you can also extrapolate that most of the people who will ‘qualify’ for this lifestyle are younger people, with an expiration date when they fail to continue to meet the “youthful” requirements,” warns the United branch of AFA.

“From a Union’s perspective, that’s age discrimination plain and simple.  This concept must be viewed for what it is – a direct assault on our profession and careers”. Breeze Airways is actively recruiting flight attendants through a partnership with Utah Valley University ahead of the airline’s launch later this year.

Students who enrol in the program will get to take part in one of the university’s online courses while also working part-time as a flight attendant at Breeze Airways. Students must apply just like they would for any other job.

Breeze Airways is offering successful applicants $6,000 in educational support allowances per year, a fixed $1,200 salary per month, corporate shared housing and one free return flight home per month.

Effectively, students can only work as flight attendants while they are enrolled in their course. Breeze also offers a part-time contract for applicants who don’t want to study but this is offered as a fixed four-year term.

AFA estimates that the most junior flight attendants at United Airlines get paid a daily rate roughly 48 per cent higher than what Breeze flight attendants will get paid over the course of their entire career with the airline.

Sara Nelson, the president of AFA believes Breeze is “abusing” federal work-study subsidies in order to keep their labor costs as low as possible. “We’re going to work hard to make sure this doesn’t get off the ground,” Nelson recently told Forbes.

Neeleman, however, believes flight attendants don’t improve much with years of experience and that the current seniority system in place at other airlines traps employees according to the same publication. He has declined to comment on whether Breeze’s employment style will help the airline save money.

The Salt Lake City-based airline is expected to launch within the next few months.

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