JetBlue put pressure on its flight attendants on Friday not to refuse to work any assigned trips as the carrier struggles to hire enough new crew members to meet a surge in demand from travel-hungry customers.
In an internal memo sent to flight attendants, Ed Baklor, head of customer care and programs wrote: “Please do not refuse an assignment you are assigned to operate; it is disruptive to the operation, lets down your fellow Crewmembers, and disappoints our Customers who rely on us to safely get them to their destination”
Baklor urged patience, telling flight attendants that the airline had embarked on “record hiring” and was anticipating a “healthy summer season” but warned the airline was still unprofitable following the pandemic and was now facing rising jet fuel prices and other cost hikes.
“We will see the other side of this if we can count on your continued patience, partnership and teamwork along the way,” Baklor continued.
JetBlue says it is on track to hire as many as 700 new flight attendants and pilots ahead of the summer season and is trying to eek out the most from its current workforce ahead of the new joiners “joining the line”.
In late December, the New Jersey-base airline said it would be forced to cancel up to 90 flights per day over the New Year period because of crew member shortages. The situation was made worse by high levels of sickness resulting from the initial wave of the Omicron variant surge.
A second wave is expected from the BA.1 sub-variant but sickness levels aren’t likely to be quite as bad as in December and January.
JetBlue is unable to schedule flight attendants as freely as the carrier was able to do in the past because the airline’s 5,000 Crewmembers are now covered by a collective bargaining agreement that sets out union-negotiated scheduling and work rules.
The Transport Workers Union said the contract would protect flight attendants facing “tumultuous times”.
On the West Coast, Alaska Airlines has just reached a deal with the Association of Flight Attendants to offer crew members additional allowances and pay for working overtime as the entire airline industry struggles to hire enough staff.
Delta says it is looking to bolster it flight attendants ranks by as many as 4,500 new hires in 2022 alone. On Friday, British Airways said it would be forced to trim its schedule because recruitment pipeline couldn’t keep up with the pace of travel demand.
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.