Release #: JBU 16.01
March 07, 2016

JetBlue Pilots Express Concern Over Gateway Select Program

WASHINGTON—The pilots of JetBlue Airways, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), today announced their concerns regarding the airline’s launch of its Gateway Select program. Citing the company’s reluctance to collaborate with ALPA in developing the new JetBlue-specific hiring, training, and qualification program, the JetBlue pilot leadership calls on the company to make the recruitment of qualified pilots a priority.

“ALPA is always open to working with airline management to find more opportunities to recruit and train the best and brightest into the pilot profession and attract them to JetBlue Airways,” said Capt. Jim Bigham, chairman of the JetBlue pilots’ Master Executive Council. “The Association has a history of supporting ab initio programs like Gateway Select. However, JetBlue management did not include its own experts in the field, the JetBlue pilots’ union, to collaborate on the hiring and training programs developed to meet the needs of our airline and customers.” 

Bigham continues: “The best practices within aviation for safety programs involve peer review and open dialogue; those traits are absent here. Without inclusion of ALPA in the development of this program, it will be far more difficult to continue to have the most highly skilled and qualified pilots on our flight decks.”

Currently, pilots hired on at JetBlue average 7–10 years of flying experience and 5,000–8,000 flight hours. Under the Gateway Select program, new-hire pilots would begin flying as JetBlue first officers with 1,500 flight hours’ experience. Applicants to Gateway Select will incur a $200 screening fee and pay $125,000 to participate. The Gateway Select program is consistent with the current FAA requirements. However, thousands of pilots with significantly more flight experience are currently available for hire at JetBlue.

“JetBlue attracts thousands of pilot applicants each year each with thousands of hours of flight experience, hiring no more than 300–400 pilots to meet demand; this means we regularly turn away the vast majority of applicants,” says Capt. Bigham. “These applicants have flight-training experience from a wide array of backgrounds, and all have significantly more flight experience than the FAA’s requirements.”

Several mainline carriers have engaged in flow-through or career-pathway relationships with regional carriers. These types of enhanced programs are tried-and-true methods for recruiting experienced airline pilots to JetBlue.

“There is no greater piece of safety equipment than a well-trained and experienced pilot,” said Capt. Bigham. “We believe that the best pilot-training program is one that is able to ensure that the safest and most experienced pilots are in the cockpit. We believe in JetBlue. We are proud to work here. It is an incredible company made up of incredible employees. We want to keep it that way. By not including ALPA in the development of this program, we have concerns that JetBlue is not meeting that objective.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 52,000 pilots at 30 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or