Alaska Airlines Cancels Flights As Pilots Picket

Alaska Airlines Cancels Flights As Pilots Picket

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Alaska Airlines’ April isn’t off to a very good start, as the airline has canceled hundreds of flights due to a sudden “pilot shortage.” This just so happens to coincide with when pilots at the Seattle-based airline started picketing around the country.

Alaska cancels hundreds of flights as pilots picket

Looking at data published by FlightAware, Alaska Airlines is struggling operationally at the moment:

  • Alaska canceled 111 flights on Friday, April 1, 2022, representing 15% of the schedule
  • Alaska has so far canceled 77 flights on Saturday, April 2, 2022, representing 11% of the schedule

Keep in mind that it’s still very early on Saturday, so I imagine we’re going to see a lot more cancelations coming as the day (and perhaps weekend) progresses.

In a statement yesterday, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson stated the following about what’s going on:

“It takes everyone at Alaska to run a successful and reliable operation. Today, we fell short. We’re grateful for all employees who are working hard to get our guests to where they need to go.”

Admittedly airlines have largely been struggling with labor shortages in recent months, as we’ve seen a great increase in the demand of air travel, all while many employees left the industry during the pandemic.

What’s odd is that these cancelations are at the beginning of the month — often pilots and flight attendants max out their hours toward the end of the month, while in this case we’re seeing staffing issues at the very beginning of the month, when those counters are supposed to “reset.”

Hundreds of Alaska pilots picket around the country

Alaska Airlines’ worst operational day in quite some time just happened to coincide with the day where hundreds of Alaska Airlines pilots picketed around the country, holding “historic, systemwide informational picketing events” in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, “to send a clear message to Alaska Airlines management that pilots are frustrated over stalled negotiations.”

It’s claimed that Alaska Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have been negotiating for a new contract for three years, with several outstanding issues yet to be resolved. This includes issues around job security, stronger working rules, and enhanced quality-of-life provisions.

As Captain Will McQuillen, Chairman of the Alaska ALPA Master Executive Council, describes this:

“Alaska Airlines pilots have been crucial in the overwhelming success of this airline and have earned a new contract that recognizes our contributions. The contract improvements we seek are reasonable, and affordable, and will allow our airline to remain successful and competitive.

The provisions we want to improve exist at other carriers and have proven their viability without harming those companies. It is time for Alaska Airlines to do the right thing and bring our contract in line with our industry peers. Three years is too long to be negotiating a contract without reaching agreement.”

Just to present a different perspective, here’s an interesting op-ed by an Alaska Airlines captain about why he isn’t picketing with his colleagues. It’s not often you see a pilot write something like that, so I imagine that has to be kind of awkward when he shows up atwork.

What should we make of Alaska’s cancelations?

I’m not here to draw any conclusions, but rather only share what we know. Alaska had a very bad day operationally yesterday, the same day that hundreds of Alaska Airlines pilots decided to picket at major airports. Furthermore, this happened on the first day of the month, which is usually when hours for pilots “reset,” meaning there are in theory the most available pilots.

There’s not a formal strike happening here, as that would be organized and announced. However, it’s also hard to imagine that the two events are totally unrelated.

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines is off to a rough start in April when it comes to operational reliability. The airline has canceled nearly 200 flights in the past 24 hours or so, and I’d imagine we’ll see more cancelations throughout the day, since it’s still early. All of this comes as Alaska Airlines pilots picket across the country over stalled contract negotiations. At some bases, more than one-third of pilots are participating in these events.

What do you make of Alaska Airlines’ flight cancelations?

Conversations (38)
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  1. Nada Dyson Guest

    I was Working for a Company where Our people Also tried to Negotiate for a Long 3 years, I feel for the Pilots & their cause. I Stand with them regardless. Back off the amount of flights going out (we as customers will adjust) & treat your people (who are making $$$ for this Company) with Kindness & Appreciation.

  2. Celia Hall Guest

    Alaska Airlines sold me a ticket for essential business travel despite the risk incurred by their business practices. As a decades-long good customer of the airline, they should arrange my travel on another air carrier.
    I won't cross a picket line or violate a labor strike and shouldn't be expected to.

  3. Larry L Guest

    Airline Pilots are in one profession that puts their job in jepardy twice a year with competency checks and physicals. The contracts for AIRLINE PILOTS represents addition protection for public safety that the FAA rules I have found to be inadequate. Look at the safety records of charters or non-scheduled airlines. Anyway think of the person flying as your representative to the company and its stock holders whose push to make money can be determinental...

    Airline Pilots are in one profession that puts their job in jepardy twice a year with competency checks and physicals. The contracts for AIRLINE PILOTS represents addition protection for public safety that the FAA rules I have found to be inadequate. Look at the safety records of charters or non-scheduled airlines. Anyway think of the person flying as your representative to the company and its stock holders whose push to make money can be determinental to safety. If the pilots don't feel safe or supported niether should you. If the pilots get there so do you. Management is safe whatever happens.

  4. Stephanie Guest

    I have a flight 4/29 should I be looking for other accommodation? Will your airline give full refunds

  5. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

    Regarding that renegade Alaskan Airlines pilot: there's always a pig for Hormel.....

  6. Mike W Guest

    Flight hour limitations under FAR117 don’t reset based upon a calendar month but are done on a rolling basis, so it being the beginning of the month would have no influence on that. Most airlines do operate on schedules issued one month at a time but the date of the month wouldn’t have a significant impact on pilot availability in most cases, as it being a new month doesn’t suddenly make more pilots available to work.

  7. Mary Ann Cleary Guest

    It was crazy at the Seattle airport on Friday. Our connecting flight to Monterey, CA was delayed, on the check in board at the gate by 30 minutes. That area was so crowded so we went down a few gates to find a seat, I was traveling with my pregnant daughter and two year old granddaughter. Gate agent told us to come back 10 minutes before new boarding time, which we did, only to find...

    It was crazy at the Seattle airport on Friday. Our connecting flight to Monterey, CA was delayed, on the check in board at the gate by 30 minutes. That area was so crowded so we went down a few gates to find a seat, I was traveling with my pregnant daughter and two year old granddaughter. Gate agent told us to come back 10 minutes before new boarding time, which we did, only to find that the door was closed and we missed our flight. Happenened to at least 2 others on that flight. It took 2 hours and 45 minutes standing in line to talk to a customer service agent. All they could do for us was to send us home to Eugene, Or. Of course are luggage is in Monterey. What a nightmare!

  8. Josh Guest

    The US should END ALL unions for airline employees!! I DO NOT feel sorry for someone making $200,000+ per year simply navigating an aircraft. These pilots only think of themselves and no one else!

    Time to get RID of these unions for good! Don't like your job? Find a new one!

    1. Scudder Diamond

      Only if we can get rid of the police unions at the same time, constantly defending the uniformed thugs that cost our cities billions in lawsuits against their illegal use of force.

    2. Bob Guest

      Actually, regional pilots start at $25,000-40,000. National pilots average $160,000.

    3. Nada Dyson Guest

      Without UNIONS people would only be working with $5.00 per hour paychecks, if that or 7 day a week or 16 hour working days along with Un-Safe conditions (Think of Coal Miners). As well as No Vacation, Maternity or Sick Day relief. The Unions were put in place for Good Reason. Not Everyone can Insert an IV, Drive a Semi-Truck nor Fly a Airplane.. These People are Worth paying for when YOU Need an IV,...

      Without UNIONS people would only be working with $5.00 per hour paychecks, if that or 7 day a week or 16 hour working days along with Un-Safe conditions (Think of Coal Miners). As well as No Vacation, Maternity or Sick Day relief. The Unions were put in place for Good Reason. Not Everyone can Insert an IV, Drive a Semi-Truck nor Fly a Airplane.. These People are Worth paying for when YOU Need an IV, trucks moving (groceries/miscl) from State to State or to Fly somewhere. If People Quit having Babies, or getting Married Maybe this No-Union would work, it's Ok if You want to Work yourself to Death... but that's Not the Way WE in This Society works here. Maybe people who DON'T Want Unions Need to go to Another Country to work for a while.

  9. John Densem Guest

    A precursor?? I awoke Monday 28th at the Westin @DEN to an email saying my 2-leg trip DEN-SEA-SFO was rebooked for the next day. No way, Jose!! Cancelled out, Booked United direct to SFO and thought I’d buy a day pass to a United lounge. 1 was closed for renovation, and the other was not currently allowing day passes. Cancelled that, too. Finally booked Delta direct to SFO with a brief layover in SLC. Same...

    A precursor?? I awoke Monday 28th at the Westin @DEN to an email saying my 2-leg trip DEN-SEA-SFO was rebooked for the next day. No way, Jose!! Cancelled out, Booked United direct to SFO and thought I’d buy a day pass to a United lounge. 1 was closed for renovation, and the other was not currently allowing day passes. Cancelled that, too. Finally booked Delta direct to SFO with a brief layover in SLC. Same plane, same gate, same crew? Don’t know. But my first flights on an A319, 1st row/windows on both legs. Next trip, on Delta, early June, SFO-MSP-ATL-BDL. Yea, Delta! Man, travel is back!!!

  10. Steve Guest

    Alaska airlines is handling this poorly. They canceled our flight home from Hawaii and we sent our last night trying to get flights home. Not flying together, not sitting together and no direct flight home. They ruined our last night of vacation and lied through the whole experience. Sorry just doesn’t cut it

  11. Frank S. Guest

    I support the pilot’s efforts to negotiate a new contract, and give kudos to the whole flight crews in AK airlines. I taught in the bush and now live in Kodiak, so have many miles with them. In my experience the best airline domestically! They are professional & courteous!

  12. BookLvr Gold

    Most union members respect other union members and will not cross the line. UPS will not cross a picket line. I wonder if Alaska gets any supplies via UPS.

  13. XPL Diamond

    Alaska management: "But we gave them preferred pronoun pins only last week! There's just no pleasing them." SMH.

    1. Mr. Obvious Guest

      I wonder if AK has a "scab" pronoun pin?

    2. CAH Guest

      The word "scab" has legal standing when used as above in a labor dispute. It is pejorative and appropriately used! CAH

  14. David Hitchcock Guest

    I had my flight to Mexico canceled today. Sfo is a mess at the Alaska counter. I’m pro union so I didn’t get too upset. Hoping for a good (but shorter ) vacation

  15. Pilots didn't cancel your flight Guest

    The pilots conducted an Informational picket for two hours yesterday.

    All of the pilots on the line were there ON THEIR DAY OFF, because it's important to them to let the public know how the Company is letting down their Customers and Employees.

    Cancellations have nothing whatsoever to do with the picket.
    Management is trying to blame the picket, when the reality is that pilots are quitting left and right and new hires...

    The pilots conducted an Informational picket for two hours yesterday.

    All of the pilots on the line were there ON THEIR DAY OFF, because it's important to them to let the public know how the Company is letting down their Customers and Employees.

    Cancellations have nothing whatsoever to do with the picket.
    Management is trying to blame the picket, when the reality is that pilots are quitting left and right and new hires aren't even showing up to class because Delta, United, American pay FAR more and have FAR better work rules.

    Management's response to this undeniable reality is to whistle through the graveyard. No picket today and already 77 flights cancelled.

    Ben Minicucci is the reason these flights were cancelled.

  16. Chris Guest

    Flight hours don’t reset at the beginning of a month anymore… it’s calculated on a rolling basis.

  17. Max Guest

    How about cutting HR department with their woke agenda by 50% and giving the savings to the employees who actually provide value to the company - the pilots who fly the planes, the flight attendants and the mechanics.

    1. Craig Guest

      "Woke agenda." Thanks for the chuckle because, damn, it must be soul-crushing to wake up every morning to another day of being a bitter anger junkie.

      Remember: We're not laughing with you. We're laughing AT you.

    2. Mr. Obvious Guest

      Craig would like his "Brandon" pronoun pin.

    3. Craig Guest

      Bless your heart for trying, Mr. Oblivious. It's adorable.

  18. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Companies across the board are facing enormous inflationary pressures; given that airline contracts don't expire but become amendable, unions are taking advantage of the optimism that airlines including Alaska are giving to investors.
    Alaska's business model has long been based on paying its employees just a little less than its competitors. Given the significant shortage of airline pilots, it is not a given that a strategy to pay less than what the big 4...

    Companies across the board are facing enormous inflationary pressures; given that airline contracts don't expire but become amendable, unions are taking advantage of the optimism that airlines including Alaska are giving to investors.
    Alaska's business model has long been based on paying its employees just a little less than its competitors. Given the significant shortage of airline pilots, it is not a given that a strategy to pay less than what the big 4 (American, Delta, United, Southwest) pay will work.
    As for operational disruptions, JetBlue ended yesterday with 58% of their flights delayed and started today with 18% of their flights delayed. B6 has a long history of pushing their operation well beyond its ability to absorb even the most "normal" delays which include air traffic control delays in the NE and Florida. When you can't even recover the operation overnight, there will be tens of thousands of customers with messed up flights on JetBlue that will last for days - right in the middle of spring break. Several of the ultra low cost carriers are also having above average delays.
    Alaska and JetBlue could well BOTH have rough summers as they try to chase revenue that their operations are not equipped to absorb.

  19. Creditcrunch Diamond

    What’s the deal if Alaska cancels a flight? are they obliged to rebook you on an alternate flight/airline travelling the same day like they do in the UK or do you have to make your own arrangements?

    1. Flightless Guest

      Last week I bought tickets on Alaska for March 31st for my family to fly out to see me and my wife. When the first flight was canceled they rebooked another flight for me with them on April 2nd. I checked this morning and that flight got canceled as well. They rebooked me for a flight on April 3rd. At this point I am just trying to get a refund but getting a hold of...

      Last week I bought tickets on Alaska for March 31st for my family to fly out to see me and my wife. When the first flight was canceled they rebooked another flight for me with them on April 2nd. I checked this morning and that flight got canceled as well. They rebooked me for a flight on April 3rd. At this point I am just trying to get a refund but getting a hold of customer service is ,rightfully, horrible right now, 10+ hour wait on the phone. I can't get in to contact with anyone. The visit from my family was cut in half and is pointless now. Of course Southwest is taking advantage of this situation and their cost to come here is about $900 more expensive.

    2. Jake Guest

      Last time I flew Alaska in March, the hold on the phone for customer service rep was 10 HOURS!! Perhap they're having customer service rep shortge and should pay them more so people want to work as a
      customer service rep at Alaska. F* the greedy pilots and divert the money to pay other employees

    3. David Hitchcock Guest

      We had a direct flight this morning to Mexico. We got bumped due to strike. Alaska put us on a long, 1 stop flight late tommrow. Sucks, but at least we will get there

    4. Eskimo Guest

      @Creditcrunch

      You have your answers yet?

  20. Eskimo Guest

    You had 2 years of pandemic to picket, you choose to do so when travel is back. Why not the first few months of global shutdown. Oh wait, back then you're worry about keeping your jobs and still getting paid.

    Sometimes I wonder if the next time before we bailout (if ever again) airlines we need to reshuffle who are leading the unions.
    You need to be more grateful you are flying today. Your...

    You had 2 years of pandemic to picket, you choose to do so when travel is back. Why not the first few months of global shutdown. Oh wait, back then you're worry about keeping your jobs and still getting paid.

    Sometimes I wonder if the next time before we bailout (if ever again) airlines we need to reshuffle who are leading the unions.
    You need to be more grateful you are flying today. Your leaders could have picket 2 years ago.

    And the YouTube video, 700+ views. You can't even get all your union pilots to view this video. What a joke.

    1. John Guest

      If they picketed at that time they would have much less bargaining power as the company didn’t need them as much. So it’s much more in their interest to do so now.

      Plus the article notes this is not a strike, so I would assume these pilots are not actively refusing to work, but picketing when they are not scheduled to fly. (Doesn’t mean that is the case for all, or if some denied requests to pick up routes or shifts)

    2. Mike Bell Guest

      No strike or sick calls. Short pilots and no one picking up over time. Mass number of pilots left for better jobs.

    3. TravelinWilly Diamond

      There was no point in striking during the pandemic when nobody was flying.

      Now that demand for travel has returned, the pilots have leverage, that’s why they are doing it now.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      Exactly because this isn't a strike. One can conclude the same thing, they probably did it on their day off. Hence the reason I'm questioning why not do it during the peak of pandemic.

      If they wanted to strike, they would probably say "strike".
      If they wanted leverage, they could have "strike".

      Like many have guessed too, their day off doesn't mean that they didn't refuse to pick up the pilot shortage. Now the...

      Exactly because this isn't a strike. One can conclude the same thing, they probably did it on their day off. Hence the reason I'm questioning why not do it during the peak of pandemic.

      If they wanted to strike, they would probably say "strike".
      If they wanted leverage, they could have "strike".

      Like many have guessed too, their day off doesn't mean that they didn't refuse to pick up the pilot shortage. Now the public have another reason to think they are behind the delays no different than going on strike.

      They need a new leader, probably both corporate and union.

    5. Renee Marie Guest

      Pilots you are seeing are there on their days off. Informational purpose--3 years the Company has been stalling. Show some respect for a very well respected pilot group and a highly respectable profession.

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Pilots didn't cancel your flight Guest

The pilots conducted an Informational picket for two hours yesterday. All of the pilots on the line were there ON THEIR DAY OFF, because it's important to them to let the public know how the Company is letting down their Customers and Employees. Cancellations have nothing whatsoever to do with the picket. Management is trying to blame the picket, when the reality is that pilots are quitting left and right and new hires aren't even showing up to class because Delta, United, American pay FAR more and have FAR better work rules. Management's response to this undeniable reality is to whistle through the graveyard. No picket today and already 77 flights cancelled. Ben Minicucci is the reason these flights were cancelled.

3
Craig Guest

"Woke agenda." Thanks for the chuckle because, damn, it must be soul-crushing to wake up every morning to another day of being a bitter anger junkie. Remember: We're not laughing with you. We're laughing AT you.

3
John Guest

If they picketed at that time they would have much less bargaining power as the company didn’t need them as much. So it’s much more in their interest to do so now. Plus the article notes this is not a strike, so I would assume these pilots are not actively refusing to work, but picketing when they are not scheduled to fly. (Doesn’t mean that is the case for all, or if some denied requests to pick up routes or shifts)

3
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