Breeze Airways, a new low-cost airline from serial aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman which is set to launch later this year, has posted flight attendant job openings beyond a controversial online university work/study student program that has attracted the ire of the largest flight attendant union in the United States.
The Salt Lake City-based airline has been making headlines for its unusual flight recruitment strategy that will see 18-year old university students working part time for Breeze Airways while completing their online college studies at Utah Valley University.
Breeze has promised to pay flight attendants a fixed monthly rate of $1,200, alongside an annual bursary of $6,000 and free shared company accommodation. Students hired by Breeze under the program, however, can only work as flight attendants while they are completing the university course.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has promised to challenge the program with outspoken AFA president Sara Nelson saying Breeze Airways is misusing federal work/study subsidies to drive down labor costs.
“We’re going to work hard to make sure this doesn’t get off the ground,” Nelson recently told Forbes.
The Transport Workers Union has described the program as “worker exploitation” in one recent Tweet which claimed Neeleman’s new airline was “forcing flight attendants into contracts barely paying minimum wage in exchange for an alleged college degree”.
The United Airlines branch of AFA says that its most junior flight attendants earn 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.
Now, it turns out that Breeze Airways is seeking to hire slightly older flight attendants outside of the student program. A spokesperson for the airline did not say whether the decision had been taken to counter union criticism or because not enough interest had been shown in the university program.
“We’re still keeping the program, and standing by all its goals, but we needed additional numbers beyond that,” the spokesperson told Bloomberg on Friday.
The new job posting will, however, only offer a minimum of 70 hours of work per month on a four-year contract. Flight attendants will receive a cash payout after completing the contract – it wasn’t immediately clear whether Breeze would offer flight attendants the opportunity to extend their contract.
One of the biggest criticisms of Breeze levelled by flight attendant unions is that the airline won’t allow employees to turn their job into a long-term career – an issue that isn’t addressed by a short four-year contract.
On Friday, Breeze had opened non-student flight attendant jobs on its own website to applicants as young as 18-years old. On one other careers websites, the airline advertised the minimum age as 20-years old.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.