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JetBlue Pilots' Unionization Raises Questions

Earlier this week, JetBlue's pilots made a move that could have lasting repercussions for the airline, and for its customers. They voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association union.

The pilots are the first JetBlue workers group to unionize, but the initiative's success could well lead to the unionization of other employees.

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In general, when employees vote to unionize, it signals some degree of tension or animosity between labor and management. After all, if workers feel their best interests are being fairly and fully addressed by a company's management, there would be no need to have a union represent them.

And then there's the link between employee morale and customer service. Happy workers are helpful workers. And disgruntled workers... well, we all know how that goes. And the effect is magnified many-fold in a service business like commercial aviation, where there are multiple points of contact between customers and employees.

From such considerations arise questions: What does JetBlue's unionization say about the company's current and future ability to deliver top-notch customer service. And will the higher pilot salaries that will likely result from aggressive collective bargaining lead to higher airfares?

There are no quick or easy answers to those questions.

The most immediate impact of the vote was a dip in the airline's stock price. Wall Street's thinking, presumably, is that unionization will lead to higher pilot pay, which will increase JetBlue's costs and cut into its profits.

For flyers, the issues are somewhat different but no less worrisome.

Reader Reality Check

Does JetBlue's first step toward unionization concern you?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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