Alaska Airlines Executive’s Unusual Interaction With Picketing Pilots

Alaska Airlines Executive’s Unusual Interaction With Picketing Pilots

51

While it’s nice to see an airline executive acknowledge disgruntled employees, I find this interaction to be rather unusual.

Alaska Airlines COO vs. picketing pilots

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) representing Alaska Airlines pilots posted an interesting video to YouTube, involving the Seattle-based carrier’s Chief Operating Officer, Constance Von Muehlen. The video was filmed on February 3, 2022, when Von Muehlen was speaking at an event in New York City.

Alaska Airlines pilots have been trying to negotiate contract improvements for three years, but haven’t gotten anywhere. So the pilots decided to show up at the event and picket.

In the nearly two minute video posted online, you can see Von Muehlen slowly walk past all the picketing pilots, and look at them one by one, without saying a word. The pilots are holding signs that include the following:

  • “Break The Stall, Contract Now”
  • “Do The Right Thing, Value Your Pilots”
  • “We Do Our Job, Now Do Yours, Contract Now”

You can watch the video for yourself below.

Was this respectful or intimidating?

It’s not often you see interactions like this between airline management and employees. I think it’s worth acknowledging the professionalism of the pilots, as they hold their signs but remain respectful.

What exactly was Von Muehlen trying to accomplish here?

  • While I doubt this was the intention, it almost comes across as if she was trying to intimidate pilots, walking up really close to them and staring them down
  • That probably wasn’t the intent, since that wouldn’t be great for labor relations; I suspect her intent was to show respect and acknowledge the pilots
  • I would imagine the union didn’t view her actions as being particularly respectful, or else ALPA likely wouldn’t have posted this video of how she interacted with pilots

I get these situations are complicated, and it’s nice that she at least acknowledged their presence, which a lot of other airline executives probably wouldn’t do. It just seems like perhaps saying something like “I appreciate what you all do and hear your frustration,” or something, would have accomplished more than this?

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines COO Constance Von Muehlen was speaking at an event in New York City, and pilots decided to picket, given that they’ve been waiting a few years on a new contract. Merits to the picketing aside, Von Muehlen’s “acknowledgement” of these pilots is one of the more unusual ways I’ve seen an airline executive interact with employees.

What do you make of Von Muehlen’s interaction with Alaska Airlines pilots?

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

Conversations (51)
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  1. Goldhoarder Guest

    She did seem to say something to at least 3 of them? There isno audio so how do you know?

  2. Mary Guest

    I know the work ethic of this woman and the deep compassion she has for employees. I did not work directly with her but had many opportunities to watch how she relates to employees on an incredible professional manor. Shame the on media for not reporting her greeting each person and twisting this to make a news story. Take video at and angle and make your own story up. Why don’t you spend as much...

    I know the work ethic of this woman and the deep compassion she has for employees. I did not work directly with her but had many opportunities to watch how she relates to employees on an incredible professional manor. Shame the on media for not reporting her greeting each person and twisting this to make a news story. Take video at and angle and make your own story up. Why don’t you spend as much effort reporting out on what the pilots need and less on trying to make someone look bad?

    I can guarantee she was greeting each person. I have watched her do that same thing with employees who were not picketing. She is well liked and respected by a majority of employees and retirees. She makes a point to make eye contact with everyone she speaks to.

    I respect the pilots and what they are standing for. I know the COO does as well.

  3. John Guest

    It looks to me like she is saying something, and at some moments I think I can actually hear her saying something to the effect of "thank you for what you do."

  4. Frank Guest

    Hopefully the Alaska Airlines Pilots, Get there point across to the big cheese. After all

  5. FlyerDon Guest

    I’m pretty sure she is asking for loose change.

  6. Ruby Guest

    Totally support my pilots... I'm a passenger that lost my whole crew pilots and flight attendants on flight # 261...88 "SOULS" on board!!! Pilots deserve so much more than this. Please give them their pay now that is deserved.

  7. John Shroyer Guest

    How many people responding to this had the great pleasure to serve under her? Let alone meet her? I was fortunate enough to serve under Constance Von Muehlen in 1993. She was a Butterbar, with C Co 6/159th Avn. To say she is fair, would be an understament. From her early days she always listen without casting judgment. I live in Alaska, and this does effect me. I know with certainty she has this covered.

    CPL John E Shroyer Jr
    Operation Provide Comfort
    WAR Eagles

  8. Tim Carlig Guest

    Seems like she was trying to remember what each pilot looked like, intimidating.

    1. The Richard Guest

      Do you watch a lot of television? Did your elementary teachers tell your family that you had a good imagination?

  9. Dee Guest

    Unreal he pilots union is doing this with all that is going on in America and the world, esp with our current state of the US being run by the guy with dementia

  10. Lisa Widner Guest

    Acknowledgement, indeed. Yes, but it was SHE who was asking to BE acknowledged. I don't see that she was acknowledging each pilot or the issue presented. Glaringly disrespectful.

  11. Teri Guest

    I’m guessing she flys Alaskan - seemed like she may have been trying to recognize their faces? It was very odd. And no, it didn’t seem respectful to me. I agree that she should have addressed them verbally in some way.

  12. Delmar Guest

    I think she is on the Pilot's side if she was one herself. she know's what it takes to be a successful COO You need those Captain's and First Officer's to be successful because Delta American and United are watching closely to Free Agency.

  13. Christina Guest

    I think it would be highly appropriate of her to make public her thoughts while she reviewed the picketing pilots and their signs. NOT doing so, leaves the viewer to their own conjecture. My husband is an AA pilot, and they, too, have been out of contract for a couple of years. It is time for airline executives to speak out about their thoughts, but, of course, that would be seen as showing their hand, so to speak.

  14. David Guest

    Constance is a proud veteran! She walked the line as if inspecting the troops, open rank style. No harm here.

  15. DayFlier New Member

    Is this headline intentional clickbait, or do you really not watch the video carefully?? She clearly was saying something to most of the pilots, respectfully going down the line to acknowledge each one, obviously moving her jaw despite the mask and seemed very respectful of them.
    Also, it would be really nice if you'd tried contacting her directly to ask her for her version of events. I'm sure she would have been more than...

    Is this headline intentional clickbait, or do you really not watch the video carefully?? She clearly was saying something to most of the pilots, respectfully going down the line to acknowledge each one, obviously moving her jaw despite the mask and seemed very respectful of them.
    Also, it would be really nice if you'd tried contacting her directly to ask her for her version of events. I'm sure she would have been more than willing to share with you her thoughts. She's a very approachable, open person.
    I hope to read a clarification statement of this article from you soon, because the comments so far should be pretty clear.

    1. Mary Guest

      Well said and on point!

    2. Richard Guest

      I read thru here and I get clarity that we have a young group in our population that is oblivious to reality. Always the victim and never part of the problem. Terrifies me that I have to share the same planet with people like this.

  16. Osno Guest

    the nod of the head was a sign of respect as was not breaking the picket line. Is she from America or Europe? We might see that as an indication of her approach.

  17. Kate Bronfenbrenner Guest

    As an expert on an employer violations during organizer and campaigns I can tell you but even the most conservative standards That was an encourages example of employer integration for union activity.

  18. Gail Guest

    It seems threatening.

  19. Bob Kenward Guest

    I take her actions as a positive. We have seen others just walk/push/scream through such a line. It is a great Airline, so hopefully they can work it out

  20. Toni Moore Guest

    That COO of AK airlines better remember..
    She needs those pilots, who have been doing their job.. and SHE DOES need to do hers!!!!

  21. Brizone Gold

    She sure seems to be ackowledging them to me. Clearly talking to them.

  22. OliverCharles New Member

    Where was the executive?

  23. Karen Guest

    She is speaking to each and every one of them- we just can't hear all of her comments. I heard some of the conversation of what she was saying to each one she went by in the line.

  24. Karen Guest

    I was at that event where she was speaking.
    There were 3 pilots that attended the event. As soon as they came in to the ballroom and went to their table, she came back to them and chatted at some length with them, before moving on to chat with other guests. I also spoke with her for about 5-8 minutes - she is very easy to speak with, is a good listener and and...

    I was at that event where she was speaking.
    There were 3 pilots that attended the event. As soon as they came in to the ballroom and went to their table, she came back to them and chatted at some length with them, before moving on to chat with other guests. I also spoke with her for about 5-8 minutes - she is very easy to speak with, is a good listener and and eloquent speaker. I personally don't think she was doing anything intimidating to the pilots in the video. I believe it was her intent to acknowledge them and indicate that she is approachable.

  25. John Guest

    I just don't buy the notion suggested by Lucky she was being intimidating or rude. Now had she simply walked by without even glancing to her co-workers, that would be rude. And neither were her protesting co-workers being rude. This was a very civilized protest. Lucky, are you in need of conflict and drama to make up for your glaring lack of substance and content??

    1. JC Guest

      I know, right?? First it was that incredibly stupid story about that chic that no one had heard of that got kicked-off an AA flight down in Cabo for not wearing enough clothes, and now this non-story. I keep wondering what's next - a post on the rumored split between Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes - Lucky's hearthrob???

    2. John Guest

      Ha ha....that would be the last straw. We come here for serious aviation stories and will even put up with all the credit card pushing. But if this blog turns into a TMZ boyband-loving fiesta with random pictures of planes thrown in......oh, Lord, it doesn't bear thinking about.

  26. Pete Guest

    Respectful would mean reading each message, or 'voice' of their crew. This was an eye-eye glare like 'how dare you'. Respectful would be acknowledging their existance, saying good morning, anything. This is just a stare down, to remember faces to fire later

    1. Shangster11 Guest

      Tell us… what color is the sky in your world?

  27. Shawn Guest

    Ben your blog has really gone down hill lately. I saw nothing of her “staring them down” but rather she seemed to nod to many of them. Don’t you think we would have heard from some of these pilots if they thought it was I’ll willed? At first glance I did think the whole affair was strange but then thought they’re picketing, it’s a somber mood, so nod in solidarity and move on. She probably...

    Ben your blog has really gone down hill lately. I saw nothing of her “staring them down” but rather she seemed to nod to many of them. Don’t you think we would have heard from some of these pilots if they thought it was I’ll willed? At first glance I did think the whole affair was strange but then thought they’re picketing, it’s a somber mood, so nod in solidarity and move on. She probably shouldn’t just start shooting the crap with them and talking smack about their union. That was her way, in my opinion, of saying I hear you and stand with you.

    I am finding myself looking at yours last down my usual list. Matthew’s has moved up and part of it is he doesn’t usually do the TMZ drama and endless credit card pitches. I get enough of that on AA!

  28. JP Guest

    Not sure what to think of this...
    A bit of the action felt like she looked each person in the eye to go "I'll remember you making trouble"....

  29. Frog Guest

    Don’t really see any disrespect or attempt to intimidate. She seems to be nodding at and acknowledging most of them.

  30. Aaron Guest

    I don't think there's any malcontent on her part. But just to make it crystal clear what her motives were, she should've at least said something. Just to remove any sliver of doubt. "I appreciate what you do." "Thank you for your service." Etc, etc.

    1. Brizone Gold

      She clearly seems to be doing precisely that.

  31. Alex T Guest

    As an Alaska MVP100 I had the privilege of speaking with Constance last month. She dedicates time each week to call customers and ask for their genuine feedback on how to improve the airline. She is a former army pilot and a champion for equal rights - I am confident that her motivation was to simply acknowledge each crew member individually. After my conversation with Constance, I have an even deeper respect for Alaska Airlines and their leadership.

  32. Creditcrunch Gold

    I think she is just walking the line and being respectful by looking them in the eyes, I don’t see anything other than that.

    1. Klaus Guest

      Maybe my vision needs to be checked…because I see her reading the sign and acknowledging it. She goes down the entire line and does not stop in the middle.
      I find that quite respectful.

  33. Saurabh Guest

    Huh? At the outset, she just seems to be nodding and acknowledging them. Maybe saying 'i heard you' or whatever she may have on her mind.
    In all honesty, if positive this is a great gesture as she may indicate that each of you are important for the company.

    I really don't get the controversy here.

    1. Raj Guest

      Agree. This seems as if she is acknowledging each pilot as an individual (rather than merely a faceless, adversarial group).

    2. OliverCharles New Member

      Funny that you said faceless...since we can't see a damn face on anyone of them. I thought the "executive" was my Uncle Benny looking for a soft egg salad sandwich.

    3. Raj Guest

      She looked at each in the eye. As if to acknowledge each one.

  34. FunTraveler Guest

    Maybe odd in the context of the picket, but it appears she is nodding to each and perhaps saying something to them. None of the pilots have said what she (may) have said to them? Interesting. She is acknowledging each of them.

  35. Alonzo Diamond

    Acknowledgment and respect, looking straight into their eyes. Not trying to intimidate or scare anyone, stop the dumb interpretations.

    1. Ghostrider5408 Guest

      No there is no misinterpretation here it is simply lack pr proper decorum on her part. They have a right to protest and she is looking them directly in the eye I take it you were not in the military if so you would recognize the action. I have posted before my feelings about the new management team at AS after interacting in person with them on several occasions, it's not he "home town" airline...

      No there is no misinterpretation here it is simply lack pr proper decorum on her part. They have a right to protest and she is looking them directly in the eye I take it you were not in the military if so you would recognize the action. I have posted before my feelings about the new management team at AS after interacting in person with them on several occasions, it's not he "home town" airline it once was and what it was built on thats for sure.
      Proper form would have been to simply walk around the line unless of course she had something of importance to say other than starring down each one and nodding ( more like ok I know you)

      The pilots need more respect than what the management is giving them, period.

    2. Alonzo Diamond

      Most of my family is in the military. She isn't preventing their protest at all. Looking someone in the eyes and nodding is a sign of respect where I come from. Again, nothing to see here. She knew she was on camera, you think she would be dumb enough to try and intimidate almost 100 people?

    3. Grew up by Ft. Lewis Guest

      Sigh..
      Difficult to interpret.
      Shocking, unusual body language for a woman, almost intrusive
      as if trying to determine who were all behind the masks, as perhaps a personal betrayal.
      It appeared in Constance's movement as there was no empathy felt.
      By viewing this video only once my memory noticed she gave a nod of acknowledge more often to the higher ranking pilots.
      Interesting, to myself was the low percentage...

      Sigh..
      Difficult to interpret.
      Shocking, unusual body language for a woman, almost intrusive
      as if trying to determine who were all behind the masks, as perhaps a personal betrayal.
      It appeared in Constance's movement as there was no empathy felt.
      By viewing this video only once my memory noticed she gave a nod of acknowledge more often to the higher ranking pilots.
      Interesting, to myself was the low percentage of women pilots, I only noticed two.
      Tough becoming and being a female pilot and most come from the military.
      Constance gave no acknowledgement to the women.
      As woman to woman, I would have expected her demeanor to soften or nod in acknowledgement for only a brief moment, that did not happen.
      What I viewed was a military stance/response from a COO who may have spent a portion of her life as a pilot.
      How Constance felt at that moment of surprise I cannot judge.
      Time will be the determiner of the outcome of what we viewed by video.

    4. Shangster11 Guest

      I agree with Alonzo. She's acknowledging them respectfully. Some of them nodded back at her, respectfully.

  36. DFW Knight Guest

    Weird Seattle behavior.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Creditcrunch Gold

I think she is just walking the line and being respectful by looking them in the eyes, I don’t see anything other than that.

6
Saurabh Guest

Huh? At the outset, she just seems to be nodding and acknowledging them. Maybe saying 'i heard you' or whatever she may have on her mind. In all honesty, if positive this is a great gesture as she may indicate that each of you are important for the company. I really don't get the controversy here.

5
Karen Guest

I was at that event where she was speaking. There were 3 pilots that attended the event. As soon as they came in to the ballroom and went to their table, she came back to them and chatted at some length with them, before moving on to chat with other guests. I also spoke with her for about 5-8 minutes - she is very easy to speak with, is a good listener and and eloquent speaker. I personally don't think she was doing anything intimidating to the pilots in the video. I believe it was her intent to acknowledge them and indicate that she is approachable.

3
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