Breeze flight attendants file plans to unionize

Breeze Airways flight attendants filed paperwork Monday to hold a unionization vote, two weeks after a group of workers first announced plans to campaign to form a union with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

The flight attendants are the lastest group at the airline to seek a collective bargaining unit, following pilots who voted to unionize as part of the Air Line Pilots Association in the summer of 2022. The airline and pilots are in the process of negotiating a first labor contract.

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“Breeze Flight Attendants are proud of their work as aviation’s first responders and they are ready to lock in a real voice at their growing airline,” AFA President Sara Nelson said in a statement. “Flight Attendants are not wasting any time organizing for legal rights on the job and a secure future at Breeze with a union contract.”

In a press release, the campaigning flight attendants cited frustrations around work rules that they allege the airline frequently changes, pay rates that they say are below industry standards, inconsistent hotel accommodations during overnight layovers and “disrespectful treatment from management.”

Under the unionization process for airlines and railroads, the campaigning flight attendants file paperwork to hold an election with the National Mediation Board, which oversees labor-management relations under the federal Railway Labor Act. The flight attendants and AFA did not say how many of the airline’s flight attendants had expressed favorability for forming a union; however, under labor regulations, the majority of a potential bargaining unit must express support for unionizing before the NMB will grant an election.

Breeze Airways, the startup low-cost carrier that began flying in 2021, is the latest airline founded by serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, who previously founded JetBlue, among other carriers across the Americas.

Report from the inaugural flight: What Breeze Airways, the new airline by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, brings to the skies

When Breeze first launched, the airline planned to primarily recruit college students to work as flight attendants and offer tuition reimbursement. The airline later said that it would hire full-time and part-time career flight attendants as well.

At the time, the AFA objected and claimed that the practice minimized flight attendants’ profession and violated federal labor laws. The airline argued that the practice was allowable and would help the nascent startup compete against more established carriers. The airline has since dropped the program.

Breeze uses a point-to-point business model, eschewing hubs in favor of point-to-point flying between city pairs that do not have competing nonstop service.

The airline began by operating short flights of less than two hours with a fleet of Embraer jets leased from Azul Airlines in Brazil, which Neeleman also founded. The airline has since added the Airbus A220 to its fleet, which has the range to connect any two cities in the continental U.S., allowing Breeze to expand and operate longer-range routes between smaller airports.

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