The pilots are the first employee group at the New York-based
discount carrier to elect to have a bargaining agent. Shares of
JetBlue were down 1.9 percent to $8.59 in afternoon trading.
Of the 96 percent of pilots who were eligible to vote in the
month-long election, conducted by the U.S. National Mediation Board,
71 percent voted to join ALPA, the union said in a statement.
JetBlue has about 2,600 pilots.
"Today, JetBlue pilots have voted for ALPA representation so that we
have the ability to improve our professional careers," Captains
Gustavo Rivera and Rocky Durham, co-chairs of the JetBlue Organizing
Committee, said in the union's statement.
In response to the vote, JetBlue said in a statement that it and
ALPA would form negotiating committees once the National Mediation
Board authorizes the union as the pilots' representative.
JetBlue has been a non-union company since its founding in 1998.
Pilots there twice voted against unionizing, with ALPA losing an
election in 2011. An initial attempt by JetBlue pilots to form a
union also took place around 2008, with only one-third of pilots
voting to unionize.
Tuesday's vote came amid concern that the airline industry faces a
shortage of pilots on account of new federal requirements for
aviator rest and experience.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rules that took effect last
summer require pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time to operate
commercial jets or cargo planes, up from the 250 hours previously
required for co-pilots. Airlines also must comply with additional
rules that took effect this year requiring more rest for U.S.
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The pilots' vote to unionize could raise costs at JetBlue.
The carrier warned earlier this year costs would rise largely
because of an agreement reached with pilots to raise base pay rates
by 20 percent. JetBlue said that increase was expected to add $145
million to its costs over the next few years — $30 million this
year, $50 million in 2015 and $65 million in 2016.
JetBlue also said plans to hire more pilots this year in wake of the
new U.S. rest rules would pressure its costs in 2014.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; editing by Matthew Lewis and
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