MIAMI – Pilots from JetBlue Airways (B6) voted to reject a tentative agreement that would provide contractual relief for B6 to implement a partnership with American Airlines (AA), according to a union statement issued on Tuesday.

In July, B6 and AA announced plans for a strategic tie-up to give the carriers an edge within the US Northeast market. However, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents B6 pilots, must provide assurances about job security for any agreement to proceed.

jetBlue Airbus A321neo Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

Comments from ALPA, JetBlue

“Job security, especially during turbulent points in our industry, is a main concern of every pilot,” Chris Kenney, chairman of the JetBlue unit of ALPA, is quoted as saying via a Reuters report.

“We are disappointed in the results of the vote,” a JetBlue spokesman said, noting the company and ALPA had worked together on the tentative agreement, adding that the carrier was committed to the “alliance with American Airlines and plan to move forward so [it] can deliver its benefits to both crewmembers and customers.”

According to Reuters, in exchange for an additional pay raise and some improvement in job security, the union said, the tentative agreement provided some relief from restrictions in 2018 collective bargaining on the types of tie-ups B6 could undertake.

Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Comments from Allied Pilots Association

On its part, the management at AA has told its pilots that the agreement would comply with clauses that reference the amount of flying that other carriers can perform (scope).

However, the union is concerned about the impact it would have on domestic flight jobs, according to a spokesperson from Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents AA pilots.

“We’ve never seen a codeshare at American that has led to more mainline jobs,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesperson for Allied Pilots Association.

Southwest Airlines N463WN Boeing 737-7H4. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Airlines Also in Opposition

Several airlines including Spirit Airlines (NK) and Southwest Airlines (WN) have filed complaints citing competitive concerns about the new partnership.

The AA-B6 strategic partnership involves Boston (BOS), New York (JFK/LGA), and Newark (EWR). The agreement would pave the way for both airlines to expand their offerings in the Northeast US, commence codeshare flights, incorporate loyalty programs, and more.

On January 12, 2021, the two airlines confirmed that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved this Northeast alliance. However, AA and B6 are required to meet specific conditions, such as divesting airport slots in JFK and Washington-National (DCA), expand capacity to meet growth commitments, among other requirements.

It seems that despite the DOT’s approval, this new partnership faces scrutiny from several airlines and now from B6’s pilots.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for an exclusive Airways interview with B6 and AA pilots regarding the partnership.

Featured image: Phil Wilco/Airways