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Spirit, JetBlue Pilots Plan to Negotiate New Contracts After Failed Merger

Spirit, JetBlue nix proposed merger, prompting planned contract negotiations with pilots.

JetBlue and Spirit aircraft (Photo: Jim Allen / Firecrown)

Spirit and JetBlue pilots on Monday announced plans to negotiate union contracts after the airlines ended their proposed $3.8 billion merger, the pilots’ union said. 

The Spirit pilots notified management of their intent to reopen contract negotiations after the airlines canceled their planned merger due to being unlikely to meet required closing conditions by July 24, JetBlue said in a news release. The pilots’ notice is the first step in reopening contract negotiations. 

“Our union has been preparing for this possible outcome and is ready to write the next chapter for Spirit Airlines as a standalone company,” said Capt. Ryan Muller, chair of the Spirit ALPA Master Executive Council. “Our current contract was negotiated under the assumption of a merger with JetBlue. Now we will be seeking a full suite of quality-of-life and compensation improvements for our pilots.” 

The union and Spirit management had reached a contract agreement in January 2022, which included a clause to reopen negotiations if the JetBlue merger fell through, the union said in a news release. 

JetBlue Pilots Look Toward Longer-Term Contract

JetBlue pilots announced contract negotiations after the pilots “opted for a short-term extension rather than a full comprehensive contract,” said Capt. Justin Houck, chair of the JetBlue ALPA Master Executive Council, in a news release. JetBlue pilots ratified a short-term contract extension in January 2023. 

“While the contract extension last year served as a temporary measure during the merger process, it was never intended to substitute for a comprehensive contract,” Houck said. “JetBlue pilots are now ready to achieve the full collective bargaining agreement they have earned.”

The merger, which the companies said would have created competition with the “big four” airlines, was blocked in January by a Massachusetts federal court. The judge ruled the deal violated antitrust laws. The airlines had appealed the judge’s ruling, which was set to be heard in June. 

“The Justice Department proved in court that a merger between JetBlue and Spirit would have caused tens of millions of travelers to face higher fares and fewer choices. We will continue to vigorously enforce the nation’s antitrust laws,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a news release. 

Several states and the DOJ sued in March 2023 to halt the merger. The Massachusetts federal court blocked the acquisition after a 17-day trial in October. Federal prosecutors alleged that the merger would increase flight prices “on routes where the two airlines currently compete as JetBlue sought to acquire and eliminate its main ultra-low-cost competitor, depriving travelers of choice.” 

JetBlue will pay Spirit a $69 million termination fee. JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty said the airline has already embarked on plans “to restore profitability.” Spirit CEO and President Ted Christie said in a news release that the airline was also implementing new initiatives to boost profits. 

Brinley Hineman

Author

  • Brinley Hineman

    Brinley Hineman covers general assignment news. She previously worked for the USA TODAY Network, Newsday and The Messenger. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and is from West Virginia. She lives in Brooklyn with her poodle Franklin.

    View all posts

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