JetBlue Is Calling Flight Attendants Back to Work to Handle Increase in Travel Demand

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  • Airline executives this week reported an uptick in travel volumes and bookings for the coming months.
  • Airlines spent much of 2020 trying to lower their headcounts through buyouts and leaves of absence.
  • JetBlue said it will call flight attendants who took leave in April and May back to work.

JetBlue Airways told flight attendants who took leaves of absence this spring that they would be called back to work early to handle rising travel demand, according to a company memo sent Tuesday.

The move comes a day after several airline CEOs, including JetBlue's reported that bookings are on the rise, extending to the summer. The trend is a sign the industry is starting to recover after losing $35 billion last year. Their optimism sent airlines' stock prices to the highest levels in more than a year.

"As we enter a new phase of the pandemic with case counts going down and vaccination rates going up, our focus is now getting ready to safely ramp up our operations for a busy summer season and our Inflight Crewmembers are critical to our recovery opportunity," said a company memo to flight attendants, which was seen by CNBC.

The New York-based airline told flight attendants who took two-month leaves of absence scheduled for April and May that they should report back a month early and attend federally-mandated training before April 22.

"We've seen a significant increase in people booking over the last few weeks, both March and into the spring and summer," JetBlue's CEO Robin Hayes said in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Monday.

JetBlue didn't immediately comment or say how many flight attendants would be affected by the change.

Airlines spent most of 2020 encouraging employees to take buyouts or leaves of absence to lower their labor costs when demand plunged.

But carriers have grown more optimistic as a recovery takes shape. Spirit Airlines, for example, is starting to hire pilots and flight attendants again this month.

United Airlines had planned to cut as many as 14,000 jobs if Congress didn't extend the latest round of government support.

The carrier's CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC on Tuesday: "As long as there is not a setback we are on the road to recovery and we can put those days of talking about cash burn, layoffs and things like that largely in the rear view mirror."

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