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JetBlue, pilot union, reaches settlement to keep away from involuntary trip days till Might 2021

The JetBlue aircraft flies to New York City in homage to healthcare workers and first responders, as seen on May 7, 2020 from Weehawken, New Jersey.

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

JetBlue Airways and the union that represents the airline's pilots have signed an agreement that will avoid involuntary vacation days until April next year. This emerges from a union report sent to the pilots on Wednesday.

The Air Line Pilots Association's JetBlue chapter agreed to a letter of consent that "will by no means protect all JetBlue pilots from involuntary vacation until May 1, 2021," said the union record that CNBC has seen . According to the 2019 annual report, the airline had around 3,600 pilots and a total of more than 21,000 employees.

JetBlue did not respond to a request for comment.

The deal comes as airlines are under increasing pressure to cut costs as the Covid 19 pandemic continues to weigh on travel demand.

The JetBlue pilot union agreed "short-term changes" with an "earlier snapback when flight demand recovers," the memo says, but it was not immediately clear what that meant. The memo states that there will be no changes to the collective agreement rates or "significant changes" to the labor rules.

"In this environment, this is the highest level of codified pilot protection in our industry to date," says the memo.

"Airline pilots were at the forefront of this public health crisis and were part of the first wave of those directly affected by the economic ramifications," the union said in a statement to CNBC.

Major U.S. passenger airlines this spring have accepted $ 25 billion in state aid that prohibits them from firing or cutting workers' wages by September 30. Executives have warned that they are likely to need fewer employees and say they want to take voluntary action before turning to layoffs.

American Airlines told employees on Tuesday that up to 8,000 flight attendants are expected to be more than will be needed this fall. The airline had more than 25,000 flight attendants at the end of last year.

"As our surplus continues to evolve based on our flight plans and the items described below, we expect a surplus of 7,000 to 8,000 flight attendants this fall," said Jill Surdek, senior vice president of flight service, in a staff note. "It does not mean that we will take as many flight attendants on leave, but it is an excess that we must tackle. Our goal is to reduce this number as much as possible through voluntary options and cooperation with unions."

The Fort Worth-based airline is also planning to close flight attendant bases at airports in the Raleigh-Durham and St. Louis area as earnings remain weak, Surdek said. The airline is also downsizing several bases and reducing staff in wide-body aircraft used on transcontinental and international routes.

Delta Air Lines informed pilots on Friday that more than 2,500 of them would be warned of possible vacations this week. The Atlanta-based airline asked eligible pilots to complete early retirement packages, some of which include partial compensation for three years.

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