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Spirit Pilots Union Wants To Agree A Pay Rise Before It merges With JetBlue

Date: October 4, 2022

By Joe Kunzler (Simple Flying)

Spirit pilots' union wants negotiations to turn Spirit Airlines into a "career destination" airline, even as the airline is being acquired by JetBlue.

Despite a recent and ongoing process by JetBlue Airways to acquire Spirit Airlines, Spirit's unionized pilots want to initiate negotiations for better pay and work rules. Spirit, as a low-cost airline however, does not pay its pilots as much as other airlines.

In a September 2 Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) statement, Capt. Ryan Muller, Spirit Master Executive Council chair, explained the decision to begin negotiations 180 days before the March 1, 2023, contract becomes amendable is about getting necessary improvements to compensation and work rules, warning that without these changes, pilots would continue to leave Spirit for airlines that offer better pay, working conditions, and career opportunities. We look forward to beginning formal negotiations to bring about the changes necessary to stem attrition and make Spirit a career destination airline.

Furthermore, the Spirit ALPA MEC President Ryan Mueller said in a statement giving support to the nationwide ALPA informational picket last week that;

Pilots are seeking recognition for their contributions to their companies' bottom line, especially through the pandemic and recovery, in the form of improved compensation and work rules. As we begin our negotiations with Spirit management this month, we will be seeking a market-based contract that will make Spirit Airlines a career destination for professional pilots.

Of course, no write-up regarding Spirit Airlines is genuinely complete without placing the issue into the framing of the ongoing JetBlue Airways acquisition attempt of Spirit Airlines. First, Spirit has about 3,000 pilots, while JetBlue has, according to multiple sources, about 4,000 pilots.

Second, thanks to ThrustFlight.com research, we can see the pay scale differences between JetBlue and Spirit.

Pilot Pay
AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
JetBlue AirwaysA320$240,000$252,000$275,000
Spirit AirlinesA320$189,000$214,000$252,000
First Officer Pay
AirlinePlaneYear 1Year 5Year 12
JetBlue AirlinesA320$92,000$162,000$185,000
Spirit AirlinesA320$59,000$133,000$167,000

Third, in a July 28 statement by both JetBlue and Spirit executives, specific pledges were made, such as:

The combined airline will provide more career growth options, broader travel benefits, more opportunities to make a difference in the communities JetBlue and Spirit serve, and a deeper bench of intellectual capital to support the future growth of the airline. ... JetBlue is committed to working with labor leaders at both airlines and JetBlue values committee representatives to ensure the combination supports the needs of those that operate the airline.

It's worth noting that JetBlue - which is working to acquire Spirit Airlines - has had its CEO, Robin Hayes, publicly state,

"I now need to over-hire to keep the number I need. With Covid, we lost a lot of experienced people."

Under those circumstances, it's easy for airline executives like him and his Spirit counterparts to promise that, “JetBlue will expand its no furlough commitment to Spirit’s team members as they are welcomed into JetBlue after closing.”

Spirit Airlines reported a net loss of $52.4 million, and may not be able to pay its pilots what their union wants - namely improvements to compensation and work rules. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Nonetheless, Spirit Airlines is not acquired yet. Nor is Spirit Airlines in the best financial position as its second-quarter report for 2022 reported a net loss of $52.4 million. Spirit Airlines management has not spoken publicly about this development from their pilot workforce.

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