JetBlue's CEO says he has to 'over-hire' just to retain the number of staff the airline needs, following an exodus of workers from the industry

·3 min read
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes joins fellow airline executives, union heads and politicians for a news conference to call on Congress to pass an extension of the Payroll Support Program to save thousands of travel jobs,
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes joins fellow airline executives, union heads and politicians for a news conference to call on Congress to pass an extension of the Payroll Support Program to save thousands of travel jobs, September 2022Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty
  • JetBlue's CEO said he's having to "over-hire" airline workers following an exodus from the sector.

  • Robin Hayes told the BBC that the airline has seen staff leave aviation in droves.

  • Half of JetBlue's 24,000 staff will have been at the airline less than 2 years by the end of 2022.

JetBlue's CEO said that the company is having to "over-hire" just to ensure it has enough staff to meet its needs because of the speed at which people have been leaving the aviation industry.

Wide-spread labor shortages have led to a summer of travel chaos as airlines, airports and freight companies have struggled to rehire workers after the coronavirus pandemic. The result has been widespread cancellations, delays, and difficulties handling baggage at peak times.

"I now need to over-hire just to keep the number I need," Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue  told the BBC. "With COVID, we lost a lot of experienced people," he said.

Hayes said that the airline has had to adjust the way it hires workers and increase the number of training simulators and classrooms in order to keep up with the rate that people are leaving the sector.

JetBlue has 24,000 crewmembers according to its website. By the close of 2022, half of them will have been with the airline for less than two years, per the BBC.

"Even if you can get the people, they don't have the same experience as someone who was doing that job for 10 or 15 years, so it's going to take longer for them to learn the skills," Hayes said.

Although it's hard to give an exact figure, a study by Oxford Economics, reported by the Financial Times, estimated that there were 2.3 million fewer people working in aviation in September 2021 compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

In July, 65.4% of JetBlue's scheduled flights arrived on time, according to a tracker by the data provider OAG. The airline canceled 4.3% of flights during the first half of 2022, according to OAG.

Hayes told the BBC that he does not think the sector will back to normal, pre-pandemic operational levels by next year, per the BBC.

The airline did not immediately respond to Insider's request for further comment, which came outside usual business hours.

Despite a difficult operating environment, JetBlue is looking to expand.

In July, it beat Frontier to strike a deal to acquire regional budget airline Spirit in a $3.8 billion deal that could create the USA's fifth largest airline.

On Thursday, JetBlue opened its second non-stop transatlantic route, between Boston Logan and London Gatwick airport. The launch was previously postponed due to a delayed delivery of two Airbus A321LR jets.

Its inaugural daily service between New York and London Heathrow began last year.

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