After a string of recent operational meltdowns exacerbated by crew shortages and “punitive” attendance practices, JetBlue flight attendants are “physically weary,” “mentally exhausted,” and “near breaking point.”
In an open letter delivered to JetBlue’s president Joanna Geraghty on Friday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents the airline’s flight attendants, conveyed this message.
The union just signed its first contract with JetBlue, which was well received by management, but the two sides’ relationship has become increasingly strained in recent weeks as flight attendants believe they are being blamed for the airline’s recent operational mishaps.
“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.”
A ‘punitive’ attendance management strategy, which is said to have led to flight attendant burnout, is at the top of the TWU’s agenda. “We’re only human,” the letter says, “and we’ve reached our breaking point.”
JetBlue stated last month that it would trim its summer schedule by 10% in an effort to stabilize its faltering company. JetBlue has blamed its recent troubles on bad weather, air traffic control delays, and employee absenteeism.
JetBlue management is attempting to persuade flight attendants not to call in ill since high absence rates have resulted in last-minute cancellations, but the TWU wants the airline to shift from a deterrent to an incentivization program.
Flight attendants currently face substantial disciplinary punishment if they call in ill on a ‘essential coverage day,’ as defined by JetBlue.
“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.