JetBlue told its flight attendants not to refuse any assigned trips on Friday, as the airline struggled to attract enough new crew members to satisfy a rise in demand from travel-hungry consumers.
“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,” Ed Baklor, head of customer care and programs, wrote in an internal memo to flight attendants.
Baklor urged patience, telling flight attendants that the airline had begun “record recruiting” and was looking forward to a “strong summer season,” but that the firm was still losing money as a result of the pandemic and was now facing rising jet fuel prices and other cost increases.
“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”.
Due to crew member shortages, the New Jersey-based airline said in late December that it would be forced to cancel up to 90 flights each day over the New Year period.
The situation was made worse by the initial wave of the Omicron variant surge, which resulted in high levels of sickness.
A second wave of the BA.1 subvariant is expected, but it is unlikely to be as severe as it was in December and January.
Because the airline’s 5,000 Crewmembers are now protected by a collective bargaining agreement that establishes union-negotiated scheduling and work restrictions, JetBlue is unable to schedule flight attendants as flexibly as it once could.
The deal, according to the Transport Workers Union, will protect flight attendants in “tumultuous times.”
As the airline industry struggles to hire enough workers, Alaska Airlines has just negotiated an agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to offer crew members more allowances and pay for working overtime.
Delta plans to hire up to 4,500 new flight attendants in 2022 alone, according to the company. British Airways announced on Friday that it will be forced to cut its schedule due to a recruitment pipeline that couldn’t keep up with demand.