JetBlue planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport
Leslie Josephs | CNBC
JetBlue Airways is planning to trim its summer schedule to avoid flight disruptions as it scrambles to hire ahead of what executives expect to be a monster peak travel season.
“We’ve already reduced May capacity 8-10% and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s COO and president, said in an email to staff on Saturday, which was seen by CNBC.
The airline canceled more than 300 flights over the weekend, a week after bad weather in Florida kicked off hundreds of flight cancellations and delays on JetBlue and other carriers.
Airlines are scrambling to staff up to handle a surge in travelers this spring and summer. Staffing shortages contributed to hundreds of flight cancellations and delays last summer and airlines executives have been looking for ways to avoid a repeat.
“Despite these challenges and, based on your feedback that the schedule is wound too tight, we know the best plan is to reduce capacity now,” Geraghty wrote. “I think everyone recognizes that the industry still remains very much in recovery mode, so we believe this proactive step is the right decision.”
JetBlue didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alaska Airlines last week said it would trim its schedule 2% through the end of June to handle a pilot shortage after canceling dozens of flights earlier in the month because of staffing shortages.
“We’ve recently let down some of our valued guests by canceling an unusual number of flights,” Alaska said Friday. “The primary cause of cancellations is the shortage of pilots available to fly versus what was planned when we built our April schedule in January.”
In her email, JetBlue’s Geraghty said the airline has hired 2,500 people so far this year and is still short-staffed. She added that the airline will share other measures to avoid disruptions with staff in the coming weeks.
“In the meantime, any and all ideas are welcome,” she wrote.
JetBlue last week disclosed a $3.6 billion bid for budget carrier Spirit Airlines, throwing into question that discount airline’s deal to merge with fellow ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines.
U.S. airline executives will start detailing their staffing and capacity plans starting this week when Delta Air Lines reports first-quarter results. Other carriers report later in the month.