Spirit pilots seek higher pay ahead of JetBlue merger: talks begin Tuesday

Spirit Airlines
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the pilots are pushing to change their contract with the carrier, mostly by increasing pay rates, before a planned merger with JetBlue goes ahead.

Air Line Pilots Association leadership and Spirit Chapter agreed to begin talks on Tuesday, ALPA said in a prepared statement. The talks will take place in Fort Lauderdale.

The two sides agreed to focus on around half a dozen issues, mostly pilot pay, according to a source familiar with the process. “Pilots are obviously looking for substantial pay raises,” the source said. The Spirit pilots negotiated merger protections in a 2018 contract.

Spirit has approximately 3,000 pilots. Due to higher salaries and widebody opportunities at all three global carriers, Spirit’s pilot workforce faces constant turnover. However, in general pilots felt that a merger with Spirit would provide better career and compensation opportunities than a merger with Frontier.

The talks aim to amend the current collective agreement, which becomes amendable on March 1, 2023, but includes an early opening clause that allowed either party to start talks 180 days before Friday, September 2. .

“For many months, Spirit’s Senior Executive Board has repeatedly advocated for needed improvements in pay and working rules, warning that without these changes, pilots will continue to leave Spirit for airlines that offer better wages, working conditions and career opportunities,” the captain said. Ryan Muller, president of the Spirit ALPA chapter, in a prepared statement.

“We look forward to entering into formal negotiations to make the necessary changes to stem attrition and establish Spirit as a career destination airline,” Muller said.

After a long battle between Frontier and JetBlue, JetBlue has outbid the Denver-based low-cost carrier with a bid valued at $7.6 billion. The companies said they expect to complete the regulatory process and close the transaction no later than the first half of 2024.

In a statement prepared July 28, the carriers said: “JetBlue is committed to working with union leaders from both airlines and representatives from the JetBlue Values ​​Committee to ensure the combination meets the needs of those who operate the airline.” Additionally, they said, “JetBlue will extend its no-leave commitment to Spirit team members when they are welcomed into JetBlue post-closure.”

Valerie J. Wallis