Alaska Airlines cancels 66 Friday flights as pilots picket for better contracts

Airlines Waiting For Word From Boeing On Fixing Max Planes
Ted S. Warren

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Many new Boeing 737 Max jetliners are still grounded by an electrical problem in a backup power-control unit. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday, April 22, 2021 that 106 planes worldwide are grounded, including 71 in the United States. Airlines are waiting for Boeing to come up with a plan for repairing the planes, and that plan would need FAA approval.

SEATAC, Wash. — As Alaska Airlines pilots picket across the country, 66 of the airline’s flights scheduled for Friday at SeaTac International Airport have been canceled as of 7:30 a.m., according to flightaware.com. There are 70 total cancelations at SeaTac.

Pilots from Alaska Airlines say they’re underpaid and overworked and are pushing for higher contracts more similar to their peers, according to organizers. Alaska pilots in Anchorage, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles are also picketing Friday as officials warn travel is set to nearly reach pre-pandemic levels for spring break.

Track all flight cancelations here

The two sides have reportedly been in contract talks since 2019.

“Alaska pilots, joined by fellow pilots from the U.S. and Canada, are expected to picket in record numbers in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,” Air Line Pilots Association, International said in a statement on Thursday. “It has been nearly three years since the Alaska pilots began contract negotiations. The current contract trails those from comparable airlines in several key sections and is not competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining pilots.”

The following statement came from Alaska Airlines in response to the picketing on Friday:

We understand how important it is to our pilots to secure a new contract. As the negotiations continue, we respect their right to engage in lawfully protected activities to voice their concerns.

We’re committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that recognizes the contributions of our pilots and supports them with increased pay, job security and greater work flexibility – key issues important to them.

It’s also vital for Alaska Airlines to negotiate a deal that allows us to maintain growth and profitability for a strong future. It’s crucial we continue to provide all of our employees with competitive pay and benefits as we hire more people, invest in new planes and fly our guests to new destinations. We believe the goals of the company and the goals of our pilots complement each other.

“A new pilot contract remains atop priority for Alaska,” said Jenny Wetzel, vice president of labor relations for Alaska Airlines. “We’ve put a package on the table that’s competitive and addresses the issues most important to our pilots. It’s a significant financial investment in our pilot group while recognizing that we are still working to recover from $2.3 billion in losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are eager to conclude negotiations quickly so our pilots can enjoy these new benefits as soon as possible.”

In support of our pilots, we recently presented the union with a comprehensive proposal. Among the highlights:

We’re offering a top of scale wage of $280 per hour for captains and a market wage adjustment a year after the contract is ratified to keep our pilots’ wages competitive with their peers at other airlines. For reference, an Alaska captain’s average salary is currently $341,000 per year. For first officers, we’ve proposed a rate of $100 per hour, which would be the #1 new hire rate in the nation.

We’re ready to increase the job security of our pilots: Any aircraft operated by Alaska Air Group over 76 seats will be flown by Alaska’s seniority list pilots.

We’d add significant flexibility on how our pilots can set their schedules along with additional support for our reserve pilots. Our pilots currently work 16 days a month on average.

We’ve been in talks with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for a new agreement since the summer of 2019, with a mutual pause in talks for about a year as the industry weathered the pandemic. As a normal part of the process, we filed for mediation with the National Mediation Board in October 2021 to help move the process forward and facilitate an agreement. We look forward to making further progress at our next mediation session scheduled for later this month.

There are some flight cancellations connected to a shortage of pilots which has created operational challenges. We notified our guests whose flights have been impacted and apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working as quickly as possible to make things right and get them to their destinations.