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labor JetBlue Airways’ Pilots Vote to Join Union

JetBlue Airways pilots vote to join the Airline Pilots Association.


After twice rejecting bids to unionize since 2009, JetBlue Airways pilots overwhelmingly agreed to be represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, the union said on Tuesday.

Most of JetBlue’s 2,529 pilots participated in the vote, and 71 percent of them voted to join A.L.P.A., the largest pilots’ union in the United States. In a one-sentence statement, JetBlue said it would set up negotiating committees after the National Mediation Board authorizes A.L.P.A. as the representative body for its pilots.

The pilots are the first work group at JetBlue to join a union. It most likely means that JetBlue’s costs will continue to rise in coming years as the pilots’ union seeks better terms for its newest members. Shares of JetBlue fell 1.9 percent on Tuesday, to close at $8.59.

Captain Lee Moak, the union’s president, said that the addition of the JetBlue pilots would “make our union stronger by adding their unified voices to the association’s strong bargaining and advocacy efforts.”

A.L.P.A., which represents about 50,000 pilots in the United States and Canada, also represents pilots at Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines pilots have independent unions.

JetBlue has been a nonunion airline since it was founded in 1998. Pilots there had twice before rejected moves to join the union, in 2009 and 2011.

In January, JetBlue struck a new work agreement with its pilots to raise base rates by 20 percent — or $145 million — by 2017. JetBlue said then that the higher pay would be the largest driver behind a projected 3 percent to 5 percent growth in its costs per mile flown.

The airline also plans to hire 125 new pilots, partly to comply with changes in federal rules about pilot rest and work limits.

The new rules require pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time, instead of 250 hours previously required of first officers, or co-pilots.

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New fatigue rules have also taken effect recently, limiting the number of hours pilots can fly. They coincided with a period of exceptionally bad weather in the Northeast, which led to thousands of flight cancellations.

JetBlue, for instance, suspended all of its flights for 17 hours at New York’s three major airports, as well as Boston, because of a winter storm in January. The airline said then that new duty and rest rules had not caused the cancellations but had complicated its operations.

A.L.P.A. said it would now focus on establishing representatives and negotiation committees and on working to negotiate the airline’s first collective bargaining agreement. It said JetBlue pilot members would immediately be entitled to A.L.P.A.’s medical advisers and insurance benefits

“Today, JetBlue pilots have voted for A.L.P.A. representation so that we have the ability to improve our professional careers,” said Captains Gustavo Rivera and Rocky Durham, co-chairmen of the JetBlue Organizing Committee.