The airline has canceled more than 100 flights in Alaska, including 66 in Seattle, 20 in Portland, Oregon, 10 in Los Angeles and seven in San Francisco, according to flight-tracking website flightaware.com. A syndicate website reported that pilots staged a rally and sit-in in all of those cities.
This affects more than 15,000 passengers. Additional cancellations are possible during the weekend.
Airline officials said the flight cancellations “are linked to a shortage of pilots, which has created operational challenges.”
“We have informed our guests whose flights have been affected and we apologize for the inconvenience. We are working as quickly as possible to rectify matters and get them to their destinations,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.
The cancellations and sit-ins come as air travel rebounds to pre-pandemic levels and demand surging as many Americans head into spring break for long-awaited vacations. Frustrated travelers on social media have voiced failed vacation plans and reported up to 10 hours of waiting to speak with an airline representative about rescheduling flights. Many said they could not travel for a day or two.
It’s nearly three years since the pilots began contract negotiations, the organizers said. They said they are underpaid and overworked compared to the pilots at United, Delta and American. Their goal is to obtain a similar contract to their peers.
“Alaska Airlines received a $2.3 billion bailout from American taxpayers during the pandemic to weather the economic downturn, retain its workforce, and prepare to benefit from the recovery we’re seeing now. It has one of the strongest industry-leading balance sheets and profit margins and is emerging from the pandemic. With less net debt than before.” “However, despite all this, Alaska Airlines has failed to properly plan for increased travel demand and take the necessary steps to ensure that pilots are attracted and retained. In fact, only this week ALPA met with two of the company’s vice presidents who made it clear that they had failed to Adequate staff and personnel retention to meet an anticipated return to flight.”
The group camped out from noon to 2 p.m. at the Hilton near Sea-Tac Airport.
Alaska says the airline is offering pilots a higher hourly wage for captains, and has proposed a first officer rate of $100 per hour which it says would be the highest new hair rate in the country.
The airline says the average salary for an Alaskan captain is $341,000 a year.
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