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JetBlue pilots open negotiations over new labor deal

April 3 (Reuters) - Nearly 5,000 pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) served a notice to JetBlue Airways to open negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the union said on Wednesday.

The pilots had negotiated a contract extension with the company at the time it was pursuing the now called-off merger with Spirit Airlines, the union said.

"We now expect the company to come to the bargaining table prepared to negotiate terms on pay and working conditions in line with the standards and direction of the industry," said Justin Houck, head of the JetBlue ALPA master executive council.

JetBlue did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The company's CEO, Joanna Geraghty, last month pledged to return the airline to profitability by cutting costs through buyouts to employees in corporate, airport and customer support functions.

Pilots across North America are pressing for better pay and benefits, buoyed by a shortage of aviators amid a boom in air travel.

Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines pilots approved a new labor agreement offering about a 50% pay raise over a five-year period. (Reporting by Aatreyee Dasgupta in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)