By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – JetBlue Airways confirmed on Sunday it plans to cut its summer schedule in a bid to avert flight disruptions as it works to ramp up hiring.
An airline spokesman confirmed an email to staff on Saturday, reported earlier by CNBC, that said JetBlue had “already reduced May capacity 8-10% and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer.”
U.S. airlines are working to aggressively ramp up hiring as they prepare for an expected spike in summer travel demand as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. Since September, several major U.S. airlines have been forced at times to cancel hundreds or thousands of flights after severe weather disruptions.
The New York-based airline said on Sunday that “given we anticipate continued industry challenges and heavy demand into the summer, we are planning more conservatively and trying to be proactive where we can with cancellations due to disruptive weather and air traffic control events.”
JetBlue canceled 148 flights, or 13% of its schedule on Sunday and delayed 39% of its flights, according to FlightAware, after canceling 18% of flights Saturday and delaying 48%.
The airline added that “to get our operation back on track this week and provide additional recovery options for the potential of additional April weather events, we are cancelling some flights this weekend and will be making a small schedule adjustment through the rest of the month.”
JetBlue said despite hiring more than 3,000 new crew members in 2022, “we remain staffing constrained, and these disruptions exacerbate an already challenging staffing situation.” It said it was adding “hundreds of new crewmembers each week as we prepare for summer travel.”
JetBlue last week made an unsolicited offer of $33 per share in cash to buy Spirit Airlines, surpassing a near $25 per share cash-and-stock bid from Frontier Group Holdings made in February. Spirit said on Thursday it would start talks with JetBlue on its $3.6 billion offer.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)