June 23, 2023

Senator Warren, Reps. Porter, Casar, Garcia, Jayapal, Schakowsky Criticize JetBlue’s Bogus Astoturf Lobbying for Spirit Acquisition, Urge DOT to Resist Corporate Pressure

“We urge DOT not to be pressured by misleading comments generated through JetBlue’s Astroturf campaign, and to continue its careful scrutiny of the JetBlue-Spirit deal. DOT should focus on genuine public input, not duplicative comments collected by a mendacious Astroturf campaign.”

Letter to JetBlue - Letter to DOT 

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif) alongside Representatives Greg Casar (D-Texas), Jesus Garcia (D-Ill), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging DOT to resist JetBlue’s misleading tactics to rig the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) evaluation of the airline’s application to consolidate with Spirit Airlines and urging DOT to block the merger. 

In a separate letter, Senator Warren wrote to JetBlue’s CEO calling on the airline to provide answers on troubling reports that JetBlue “orchestrated a campaign to flood the government with thousands of online comments from employees in favor of the airline’s bid to merge with Spirit Airlines, Inc.” But it appears many of these employees “either didn’t consent to having their names used publicly or didn’t understand the form would lead to a public comment in support of the (acquisition). Some said they didn’t believe they had completed a form,” and one union leader stated directly that the comments were a result of JetBlue having “deceived their own workforce.” The union leader also stated that the comments collected under false pretenses by JetBlue “aren’t an accurate gauge of the temperature of the JetBlue employees.”

“As the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Attorneys General of California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and D.C. recognized when they sued to block JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit, the deal would harm consumers by leading to higher fares and fewer seats. We commend DOT for resisting industry pressure, and urge the agency to consider rejecting the airlines’ request to consolidate,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to DOT.

In a letter shared with Senator Warren’s office on June 14, 2023, JetBlue called the reports about their collection and use of workers’ comments “deeply flawed,” and sought a meeting with the Senator to discuss this matter and other aspects of the proposed merger.  But the information in the letter was even  more troubling than the public reports: it confirmed the company’s AstroTurf lobbying actions, informing the Senator that the airline “encouraged” employees to comment, and even created “a tool that made it easy for them to submit (comments) to DOJ and the DOT dockets.”

“...you owe Congress and the public answers for your company’s actions during the DOT comment period. Your letter failed to provide those answers; in fact, it provided no substantive defense of JetBlue’s behavior other than noting that, “‘letter writing campaigns such as these have been heavily used by industry in the past,’” Senator Warren wrote in her response to JetBlue.