Unions Protest Breeze Airways Approval on Age, Diversity Grounds

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Labor unions have asked the federal government to review its approval of Breeze Airways to operate in the U.S., citing concerns over the discount carrier’s recruitment and employment policies.

The unions said Breeze, an upstart domestic carrier founded by airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, violated age discrimination and diversity statutes with a plan to hire flight attendants solely through a tuition reimbursement, work-study program with Utah Valley University.

The strategy pulls from a primarily young, White applicant pool, the petitioners say, citing enrollment figures at the Orem, Utah, university, and favors inexperienced workers as a measure of cost savings.

“For a profession that had an established reputation for discriminating against older workers throughout history and that has only recently begun to combat these ingrained, ageist behaviors, Breeze’s recruitment strategy is more in line with historical standards rather than modern ones,” the complaint states.

Some 78% of UVU’s students are White, according to figures from 2018.

Among those making the complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation were the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Transportation Trades Department and the Transport Workers Union of America.

Breeze, which began flying May 27 with an initial network of 16 cities, dropped its original plan to rely exclusively on students as young as 18 as flight attendants because it didn’t produce enough job applicants, but said at the time it would continue the program with UVU in combination with posting openings more broadly online.

The airline is a unit of closely held Breeze Aviation Group Inc., which is based in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, near Salt Lake City.Neeleman, who created JetBlue Airways Corp., Brazil’s Azul SA and other carriers, has built his career by devising new low-cost strategies.

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