JetBlue Airways Corp expects to avoid widespread furloughs among frontline employees, but warned that some corporate staff and managers may be laid off, an internal memo seen by Reuters on Thursday showed, as the aviation sector grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
JetBlue said it believed furloughs for mechanics and airport and customer support workers could be avoided, thanks to the take-up for voluntary leave and departure options, based on its best estimates for a recovery in travel.
“With the CARES Act payroll support that gets us through September, and our voluntary opt out and time off programs underway, we believe we have a path to protecting many jobs at JetBlue,” JetBlue said in a memo.
The U.S. aviation sector received a $32 billion bailout to cover payrolls under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that prohibits airlines from forcing involuntary furloughs before October.
But many airlines have warned that furloughs may be needed in the fall if projections for commercial air travel remain weak.
Furloughs for in-flight crews would depend on take-up by July 9 for voluntary programs, JetBlue said, citing “healthy” demand so far. However, interest in voluntary leaves from corporate staff and managers was insufficient, it added.
“The uncertainty of the industry’s recovery and the changing landscape around us means we have to be ready for anything,” it said.
JetBlue and a labor union representing pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), reached an agreement on Wednesday to avoid involuntary furloughs until May 1, 2021.
“Even as coronavirus puts unprecedented challenges in front of us, we will continue to make frontline furloughs and support center involuntary reductions a last resort,” the memo said.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Richard Chang)