On Tuesday, the flight attendant union representing both Frontier and Spirit Airlines announced that it had negotiated a so-called “merger transition agreement” with Frontier that would protect jobs and, perhaps more critically, flight attendant seniority.
The deal was announced just one day after JetBlue launched an unsolicited offer for Spirit and encouraged its shareholders to reject Frontier’s competing offer.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) represents Spirit and Frontier crew members, while the Transport Workers Union represents JetBlue flight attendants (TWU).
Flight attendant seniority would be protected if AFA and Frontier merged, according to the agreement signed between the two organizations. Seniority comes with benefits such as trip bidding privileges and priority access to holiday reservations, among other things.
“We are thrilled to announce our support for the merger of Spirit and Frontier Airlines after reaching a transition agreement that protects Flight Attendant jobs,” commented Sara Nelson, international president of AFA on Tuesday.
“We support the necessary regulatory approvals that will improve competition, increase consumer options and experience, and maintain and grow good union jobs.”
Frontier has cleared a crucial merger hurdle by gaining the permission of one of the airlines’ most powerful workgroups. Frontier has promised not to merge any operations until the consolidated flight attendant workgroup has negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement.
Former Spirit flight attendants will initially be restricted to pre-merger Spirit aircraft, while former Frontier flight attendants will be restricted to pre-merger Frontier aircraft.
Despite the fact that both airlines use Airbus A320 aircraft, which would make integrating the fleets and staff relatively simple, the union insisted on this clause to protect existing employment and focus management’s thoughts in order to secure a single agreement.
AFA has gotten a pledge from Frontier that no flight attendants will be furloughed as the two airlines begin to integrate routes and schedules after the merger, among a slew of other provisions.
Earlier this month, Spirit rejected a takeover offer from JetBlue but on Monday the airline said its board would review another unsolicited offer from JetBlue “consistent with its fiduciary duties and applicable law”.
JetBlue has slammed Spirit’s board as “conflicted” and says its “superior offer” was rejected “on baseless grounds”.