Overworked and underappreciated, jetBlue flight attendants are facing “threats, intimidation, and unfair discipline” according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) which is continuing to negotiate with the New York-based airline over stalled contract discussions.
In one recent case, the TWU claims a group of flight attendants were stood down and charged with ‘refusal’ because they dared to ask a question. Flight attendants at the airline are facing “unprecedented reschedules, commuting difficulties, passenger misconduct, and provisioning shortages,” the union claims.
The situation has been caused by the sudden rebound in travel demand that took jetBlue and most other airlines by surprise says the TWI. While some airlines are offering financial incentives to temporarily increase staffing, the TWU claims jetBlue is putting its flight attendants “in harm’s way”.
Much of the blame has been put on jetBlue’s Vice President of Inflight Ed Baklor.
“Mr. Baklor has failed in staffing the airline adequately and is using IFCs as scapegoats. We know that you are sick and tired of being ‘sick’ and ‘tired’,” wrote the TWU’s International Vice President Gary Peterson in one recent memo to jetBlue flight attendants.
Last month, the TWU claimed flight attendants were being forced to commute across New York in the middle of the night only to then be “crammed” into a crew break room with so few seats that they are forced to sit on the floor.
A spokesperson for JetBlue disputes the TWU’s version of events, saying the primary cause of disruption has been weather related and that all crew members get the necessary amount of rest as required by law.
“As anyone who lives in the northeast knows, we’ve had several weeks of severe thunderstorms, which have impacted our summer operation more than usual,” a JetBlue spokesperson commented.
“We are very proud that we did not furlough any crewmembers during the pandemic, and we are thankful for the CARES Act payroll support program,” the airline said in a statement. “The payroll support program helped us be in a position to ramp up so quickly and serve as many customers as we have this summer.”
The two sides reached a deal on a tentative contract last October but the contract has not been fully ratified and JetBlue has allegedly gone back on some of the provisions it had agreed to.
The TWU has demanded that negotiations be speeded up and has said it is “prepared to defend” union flight attendants. “We will not sit by quietly and tolerate your continued bullying,” Peterson wrote.
From next month, jetBlue hopes to start regularly scheduled transatlantic flights to London but the TWU is less sure. “If JetBlue Leadership can’t manage the daily domestic operation, how will their U.K. flights go?,” the union wrote in another memo.
“A large number of Reserves have quit JetBlue, creating an even greater strain on the operation. Most of the feedback we have received is that they left because they couldn’t handle the stress being placed upon them and their families.”
While acknowledging that some crew members left the airline through the pandemic and that “natural attrition” continues, the spokesperson said the airline was actively recruiting 2,500 new flight attendants and that financial incentives are in fact on offer.
“The TWU’s efforts would be best spent at the negotiating table so we take care of our inflight crewmembers with a new contract,” the spokesperson continued.
Photo Credit: Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock.com
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.