JetBlue says it will push ahead with a groundbreaking partnership with American Airlines, even after its pilots voted to reject the agreement that would have permitted the deal.
In response, the JetBlue chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said it will file a grievance and seek arbitration. However, pilots said late Wednesday that they are ready to talk to the carrier about the partnership.
“We are ready to meet with the Company to negotiate an agreement that is mutually beneficial and allows for full implementation of the codeshare with American while giving the pilots meaningful career improvement,” said Chris Kenney, JetBlue Master Executive Council Chairman, in a prepared statement.
“JetBlue pilots are committed to the long-term growth of JetBlue—but that growth must include the pilot group,” Kenney said. “As seen by the vote results, this tentative agreement simply did not provide enough job security assurances to make up for the relief JetBlue was seeking from the contract.”
The carrier did not immediately respond on Thursday morning to the pilot offer.
The partnership would enable the two carriers to codeshare, coordinate schedules and offer reciprocal frequent flyer benefits on New York and Boston flights. Key benefits would include feed to American’s international flights at JFK and more JetBlue flying at LaGuardia.
The vote to reject was narrow. With 3,547 pilots voting, representing 92% of those eligible, 54% voted against and 46% voted in favor of a letter of agreement that would enable the partnership.
In an earlier prepared statement issued Tuesday, Kenney said the issue is job security.
“For any agreement to proceed, JetBlue management must provide acceptable assurances that our jobs are safe and valued for years to come,” Kenney said.
“If JetBlue wants this full partnership with American to be implemented and successful, they will need the pilots to be part of it,” he said. “To do that, JetBlue management must show the same level of commitment to its pilots with contractual assurances that protect our jobs and provide meaningful career improvements. We stand ready to work toward an acceptable resolution of these issues.”
The scope clauses in the 2018 contract restrict the types of code-share and joint venture arrangements JetBlue may undertake, ALPA said. The tentative agreement for the American deal gave relief from these limits for 10 years in exchange for an additional pay raise and some enhancement in job security, ALPA said.
Soon after the rejection of the tentative agreement, JetBlue declared “We are disappointed in the results of the vote.
“JetBlue and ALPA worked together on this tentative agreement to achieve much-needed cost savings during this unprecedented time,” the carrier said. “We are committed to our alliance with American Airlines and plan to move forward so we can deliver its benefits to both crew members and customers.”
The partnership would expand flying for JetBlue pilots. In recent reports, the website Paxex.aero said an internal member to JetBlue crew members “suggests that San Antonio, Kansas City, St. Louis and Milwaukee are among the cities on the shortlist for the next few years,” while a story in Airline Weekly is headlined, “JetBlue Could Triple New York LaGuardia Flights with Controversial American Airlines Alliance.”
In the American Airlines pilots’ contract, pilot scope is protected by a provision that limits code sharing to 15% of the domestic available seat miles flown by the carrier.
Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, awaits further details on the JetBlue partnership and has not taken a position.
APA spokesman Dennis Tajer said Wednesday, “We share the concerns of the JetBlue pilots. We don’t want this business scheme to cause the loss of jobs.
“When you see these business schemes produced by management, these types of things happen,” Tajer said. “They’re constructed in the dark of night and they wither in the sunlight.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes