Flight attendants at JetBlue are ‘physically drained’, ‘mentally exhausted’ and at ‘breaking point’ after a succession of recent operational meltdowns that have been made worse by staff shortages and ‘punitive’ attendance policies.
That was the message that JetBlue’s president Joanna Geraghty received on Friday in an open letter from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) which represents flight attendants at the carrier.
The union recently signed its first contract with JetBlue which was welcomed by management but the relationship between the two sides has become increasingly strained in recent weeks because flight attendants feel like they are being blamed for the airline’s recent operational disasters.
“Sadly, the pervasive attitude among Inflight Leadership is that the IFCs (infight crewmembers) are what went wrong with the operation, instead of the other way around,” the union told Geraghty on Friday.
“Punishment, fear, and intimidation have become the go-to quick fix, and it’s not working,” the letter warned. “That is going to require some changes, and we hope you’ll take a hard look at the direction we’ve been going, and see where we need to change course.”
Top of the agenda for the TWU is a ‘punitive’ attendance management policy that it is claimed has led to flight attendant burnout. “We’re only human and we’re at our breaking point,” the letter implores.
Last month, JetBlue announced it would slash its summer schedule by 10 percent in an effort to make its floundering operation a little more stable. JetBlue has blamed bad weather, air traffic control delays and staff absences for its recent woes.
JetBlue management is attempting to dissuade flight attendants from calling out sick because skyrocketing absence levels have resulted in last-minute cancellations but the TWU wants to see the airline switch from a deterrence policy to one of incentivization.
Under the current system, flight attendants risk serious disciplinary action if they call out sick on what JetBlue calls a ‘critical coverage day’.
“We have a record number of IFCs on Final Progressive Guidance and sadly, have lost many to termination as a result of the vast expansion of Critical Coverage Days, which are exponentially greater in number than any other commercial carrier,” the TWU told Geraghty in the open letter.
“We believe the stick now far outweighs the carrot,” the letter continued.
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.