MIAMI – In another round of words against organized labor, US startup Breeze Airways (MX) fired back against unions, defending its hiring of flight attendants from among college students.

In an official filing this week, MX asked the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to dismiss all claims that the airline’s plans to hire students constitute a violation of federal laws.

According to the aviation portal Airline Weekly‘s report of June 17, MX “defended its plan to offer tuition reimbursement to Utah Valley University students who work as flight attendants for the airline as just one pathway to a career at the company,” adding that Breeze “company won’t use students alone to fill its flight attendant ranks and also will hire full-time and part-time professional flight attendants.”

Photo: Liam Funnell/Airways

Breeze Claims ‘Flexible Workforce’ for the Move

The airline also stated that the move will help it compete against larger carriers for cabin crew positions.

“As a startup airline that will compete with the largest legacy airlines across the country, Breeze needed a portion of its flight attendants to be part of a flexible workforce that quickly could be deployed to new start-up cities as it grew its operation,” the report stated, quoting a Breeze statement.

Responding to MX’s plans, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) President Sara Nelson did not see eye to eye with the airline.

“Breeze argues that federal regulators have no business asking about its plans to follow labor and civil rights law. We fundamentally disagree,” Nelson said.

Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

The ADEA and the Civil Rights Act

Things escalated after the plan of working with Utah Valley University was unveiled. AFA and AFL-CIO, as well as other unions, filed a complaint with the DOT, alleging, per the report, that Breeze “violated federal law,” and asking the department to “delay its final approval, or fitness to operate, for Breeze until the plans had been clarified and resolved.”

The unions also claim that the plans to hire UVU students “could fall afoul of the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) and, because more than three-quarters of the university’s students are white, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” raising questions of employment discrimination.

The ADEA (1967) prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. MX rejected all of the unions’ discrimination claims.

“Speculative claims in the petition that any individual has been excluded based on age or race are inaccurate. Breeze has partnered with [Utah Valley] in connection with the program because it is a reputable, state university that offers attractive online education programs, including a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Management, and is located near Breeze’s commercial headquarters,” the airline said in its filing.

Breeze’s filing also mentions that claims who consider the airline’s FAs as unqualified are baseless and that its employees must comply with all training programs the FAA requires, as it also states that the DOT has no jurisdiction to analyze labor issues.

Featured image: Breeze Airways