JetBlue’s earnings report landed earlier today, showing that the company is still struggling to rebuild from a year and a half of travel restrictions and heavy layoffs that rocked the entire travel industry. The airline’s stock dropped 6.91% today by market close, but the company remained adamant that it’s on the path to fully recover from the pandemic.

While many airlines spent 2020 repeatedly laying off and furloughing huge swaths of employees, JetBlue managed to make it through the year less battered than its counterparts — In July last year, the company arrived at a deal to avoid involuntary layoffs until May 2021. But despite being able to hold back on human cost-cutting measures, the company was still forced to slow its roll and tread water through 2021.

JetBlue and many of its competitors saw a near total freeze in job listings last spring as the pandemic took hold and travel restrictions came into effect. The drought lasted well into the fall; it took most airlines until October to begin stirring their job listings. But now, most of them — JetBlue included — have brought hiring back up beyond 2020’s pre-pandemic numbers. At present, JetBlue has 117 open job listings — a 101% increase year-over-year, according to Thinknum data

United and American Airlines have surpassed JetBlue’s hiring spree with slightly more open positions, but Delta’s growth eclipses them all. With 397 open positions, Delta has over three times as many open job listings as JetBlue, and 99 more open positions than it did at its pre-pandemic peak.

The airline industry is finally beginning to come back online, but recent news could stifle their return. The Delta variant rapidly spreading across the country has mask mandates popping up in cities across the country, and the CDC updated its guidance to recommend that even vaccinated adults resume wearing masks. Markets have reacted badly to the spread of the variant, and should conditions worsen into a fourth full-on wave of the pandemic, airlines may soon find themselves in a familiar situation: slashing staff, parking planes, and finding uncomfortable ways to outlive the disaster. 

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