JetBlue has requested authorization to launch an ab initio pilot training program in the United States. I’ve written about ab initio training before (see here, here and here.) The main difference between this proposal and the European practice is that JetBlue will send their candidates out to fly at a smaller airline until they get the required hours (1,500.) That matches the minimum time requirement for pilots at U.S. carriers; most applicants exceed that number. The candidates in this program might gain a leg up on their competition by securing an job at the minimum level.
The company attempted to justify the request by citing a pilot shortage (see here.) If you don’t click through, here’s the summary: airlines have thousands of applicants for pilot jobs if the jobs pay well. If not, as in the case of regional airlines, pilot shortage. JetBlue starting pay for pilots is about $44,000/year. Starting pay at a typical regional airline (e.g., Mesa) is about $20,000/year.
A McDonald’s cashier makes about $17,500/year.
So why? Under the plan, pilots could get hired onto the JetBlue seniority list at a younger age than otherwise. They would enjoy a permanent lifestyle benefit at the expense of their peers; and thus the creation of a cadre of grateful pilots. That difference would be an exploitable wedge between union members, potentially useful during contract negotiations. In fairness, unions also create wedges between members over time.