After being acquired by Alaska Airlines Group, which will make it the fifth largest airline in the U.S. once the acquisition officially occurs, and after the news that Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is debating launching a competing airline, Virgin America in-flight teammates have rejected the tentative agreement that their union reached with the airline.
With the rejection, comes frustration, since flight attendants at both Virgin America and Alaska are left waiting on decisions that could affect their employment and their seniority.
Virgin’s “teammates,” known as flight attendants at most airlines, rejected the tentative agreement bargained by the Transport Workers Union, which would have been ratified once the Alaska acquisition was final, which is scheduled to close as early as October.
Based on the rejected contract, the Virgin America teammates would have received an immediate 7.5 per cent pay increase upon signing, along with improved working conditions.
"Our inflight teammates have spoken. …We are now turning our attention to our anticipated merger with Alaska Airlines, and we will be discussing next steps connected to the merger with the TWU," said Dave Arnold, Virgin America spokesman, said.
Alaska, which is represented by the Association of Flight Attendants told their 3,500 unionized members that, "In the meantime, we stand in unity with our Virgin America sisters and brothers as they fight for improvements to their wages and working conditions.”
Once the acquisition is finalized and if approved by the National Mediation Board, the AFA union will represent both sets of employees who will receive Alaska pay and benefits.
If approved by the NMB, the deal would expand Alaska’s presence in California, especially in San Francisco where Virgin America is based. The merged airline would pass JetBlue on the US-based largest airlines list and sit behind American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
"We will be the airline of the West Coast," said Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden on CNBC.