Merger FAQs - Spirit/JetBlue

Merger FAQs - Spirit/JetBlue

September 29, 2023 — Especially as we get closer to the proposed JetBlue/Spirit merger trial dates in October, we know that everyone has questions and/or concerns. The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department to halt the merger will go to trial on October 16th in Boston and is expected to last for approximately four-weeks. A decision will not be made until January at the earliest. 

Court approval in this case is necessary for the merger to become effective, barring any settlement between the parties in the meantime.

Assuming the merger is approved to move forward next year, we have prepared a set of frequently asked questions that review your rights and protections in a merger - as well as the very specific protections we’ve locked in for this specific merger with AFA as your representative.

Please review the Merger section of the Spirit AFA Contract, and the AFA-CWA Constitution & Bylaws, Section X.

Don’t let rumor and speculation make you worry or cause any concern. You can count on correct information through AFA communications.

We are Stronger Together and Better Together. Wear your AFA pin, stay calm and fly on!

In Solidarity, 

AFA Spirit Master Executive Council and AFA International

AFA Merger FAQs - if the merger moves forward!

1. When would the operations of the two carriers be merged?

If the merger is approved by the court then the financial closing of the merger can occur. This makes the merger official, but several steps must be taken before operations can be merged.

  • The company must receive a Single Operating Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (this will take no fewer than 12 months). 
  • There must also be a Single Carrier Determination from the National Mediation Board (NMB). Only one union can represent the combined group of Flight Attendants. If there is not an agreement between unions on representation, then there will be an election conducted by the NMB with the full combined group of Flight Attendants voting. A majority vote will determine the representation.
  • Once there is a single representative determined, a single contract must be negotiated and the seniority lists must be combined before the operation is combined. AFA has very specific procedures spelled out in our Constitution on both of these issues, while also maintaining daily representation and enforcement of the separate contracts until a new combined contract is ratified by the full group. Seniority is protected so that everyone keeps the seniority they brought to the merger. AFA contract and seniority protections depend on AFA representation at the combined airline.
  • Combining the operation takes time to go through all of these procedures. Expect no less than 12-24 months.

2. What have we secured in this merger?

In addition to getting Spirit management to agree to a short term contract with improved pay, scheduling and other items before the airline even turned a profit, we used the leverage of our support for this merger to secure important improvements and protections for Flight Attendants post-merger. We have a written confirmation from JetBlue and an agreement in writing with Spirit that includes: 

  • “No furlough” protections, meaning there will not be Flight Attendant furloughs as a result of the merger,
  • a commitment to seniority integration under the law (AFA integration protects the seniority each Flight Attendant has accrued at their respective carries)
  • no displacements (protects base), and
  • a "second bite at the apple" through an expedited process for joint contract negotiations ensuring that Flight Attendants further improve wages and working conditions by sharing in the value created by the merger.

3. What exactly is “integration” and when would it happen?

It is important to understand that “integration” applies to many steps along way to completely combining the two carriers:

  • Integration of corporate management and departments (Labor Relations, Legal, Finance, etc) is one aspect of integration and could possibly happen quickly after DOJ approval and the financial close of the corporate merger.
  • Operational Integration of policies, maintenance procedures and manuals, etc. leading up to a Single Operating Certificate takes over a year and longer.
  • Seniority list integration – If AFA is the representative of the combined Flight Attendant group, we will conduct our bidding “date of hire” seniority integration process with Flight Attendant representatives from each airline, but management will not receive the completed list until a merged contract is ratified. 
  • Contract Integration – negotiating the Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) and finalizing a process agreement which allows for a smooth and orderly combining of the two labor groups (eg. JetBlue Flight Attendants and Spirit Flight Attendants) requires Flight Attendant ratification - and this step can only take shape alongside the operational integration.
  • Operational Integration, including combined reservations and scheduling. Again, this will take time, likely a couple years to complete this work.

4. What bases would open and close at the combined carrier?

JetBlue has stated all bases will remain open. The court could approve the merger with required changes to certain slot/route authority for the combined carrier, but the merger plan is to grow, not shrink the operation and, again, we secured the commitment of no displacements. 

5. How would the seniority lists be combined if AFA is the representative?

A Seniority Merger Integration Committee (SMIC) with Flight Attendant representatives from both carriers will be established and representatives may only be chosen by Flight Attendants from each respective pre-merger airline. The SMIC will review the records of every Flight Attendant and ensure no one leap frogs another Flight Attendant on each respective list, while also assessing whether adjustments of bidding seniority dates should reflect time in training consistently for both groups. This process is transparent and includes a verification period with the opportunity for each individual Flight Attendant to review their seniority date before the list is final.

6. What is the AFA merger policy that will govern how the Flight Attendant groups are integrated?

The AFA Merger Policy can be found in the AFA International Constitution and Bylaws, Section X. AFA has vast experience with mergers and negotiating agreements that protect our members and keep Flight Attendant interests front and center.  

7. How would the merged contract be negotiated with AFA as the representative?

Under the AFA Constitution & Bylaws, a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) will be formed following Single Carrier Determination by the NMB and declaration of AFA as the representative. Flight Attendants from both airlines will be members of the JNC, and JNC may only be chosen by Flight Attendants from their respective pre-merger airlines. The JNC will negotiate a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) attempting to combine the best from each Flight Attendant Contract in addition to other improvements. JetBlue management has already agreed to an expedited process that ensures Flight Attendants can gain a contract with improvements that reflect the higher revenue generation of the combined airline. The tentative JCBA will be voted on by all Flight Attendants at the merged airline and must receive a majority vote in favor by the combined group for ratification.

8. When would the Flight Attendant Groups be combined?

The Flight Attendant groups cannot be combined until the JCBA is ratified and the seniority list is merged and accepted. In addition, combining carriers includes FAA oversight of safety policies and procedures - leading to the Single Operating Certificate. Flight Attendants will take part in “differences training” to ensure certification is the same on each aircraft. The company will also need the ability to schedule crew with a combined system.

The expanded flying opportunities and route network typically provides more choice for Flight Attendants in bidding and managing our schedules. 

9. What are the benefits of this merger for our Flight Attendant careers across the industry?

Added Competition: The JetBlue-Spirit merger will add competition to the current dominance of the four airlines controlling 81 percent of the entire market and increase access to Flight Attendant jobs that provide pay, benefits, and working conditions among the best in the industry.

No Two-Tiered Employment: JetBlue does not currently utilize the regional business model, where Flight Attendants are paid on average 45% less, and has no plans to introduce it with the merged carrier. This is significant as it adds access to good aviation jobs and sets a new model that will pressure other airlines to compete with jobs set to the highest standards.

Far Better Working Conditions: The JetBlue-Spirit merger will result in reconfiguration of all Spirit aircraft from 28” seat pitch minimum (worst in the industry) to 32” seat pitch minimum (best in the industry), creating a better cabin environment for Flight Attendants and passengers alike. Cramped conditions often contribute to passenger anger and far too frequent abuse of frontline workers.

10. Some call it a merger, others call it an acquisition. Does it matter?

An acquisition is a technical finance term about the financial transaction between the two airlines. No matter what the technical financial transaction is called — the two companies must be merged together. The merger begins once the financial transaction is approved. Nothing changes for Spirit Flight Attendants or JetBlue Flight Attendants until the airlines are in merger mode. That’s why we don’t refer to the financial transaction, because it doesn’t change your contract or your legal rights during the actual merger. When and if we get to an “approved deal” involving these airlines, that is when the merger starts and that is what it is called no matter how management initiated the deal. 

11. Could a government shutdown affect the merger trial?

If the government is fully shut down that affects the courts. But, the trial is not set to start until weeks after the potential for a government shutdown. If anything, a government shutdown could delay the court proceedings, but it won’t stop them. 

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