Feuding Alaska Airlines Pilots Cause Flight Delay

Feuding Alaska Airlines Pilots Cause Flight Delay

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While flight delays have become rather standards in this era, it’s not every day that a flight is delayed for this reason…

Alaska flight delayed because pilots couldn’t get along

This incident happened on Monday, July 18, 2022, and involves Alaska Airlines flight AS1080 from Washington (IAD) to San Francisco (SFO), which was operated by an Airbus A320. The flight had allegedly already been delayed by 90 minutes due to bad weather in the area, but then things got worse.

According to reports from passengers, the plane returned to the gate after pushing back, as the two pilots allegedly couldn’t get along. This is corroborated by multiple people who were on the flight, who all share a similar story on Twitter.

One of the pilots was even quite transparent with passengers about the issue, stating that this was “due to a failure to get along,” and that he was leaving the plane “in the interest of safety.”

One passenger recorded the end of the pilot’s apology, before leaving the plane.

Another passenger recorded a video of the pilot leaving the gate area.

Rather impressively, Alaska Airlines quickly found a replacement pilot, as a crew member who was scheduled to work a flight to Los Angeles was rostered onto this flight last minute. The flight was scheduled to land in San Francisco at 7:05PM, but ended up landing at 9:31PM, less than 2.5 hours behind schedule.

Arguably the passengers on the Los Angeles flight had it worse, as it took quite some time for them to find a replacement pilot. That flight was supposed to land at 8:05PM, but ended up landing at 10:38PM, so that was a delay of over 2.5 hours.

My take on this Alaska Airlines pilot incident

I find some of the commentary from passengers on this flight to be a bit dramatic:

  • “Very scary that your pilots could be this careless and flippant”
  • “I have never been more traumatized by a flight experience in all my years of flying domestic and international”

Quite to the contrary, I think it would have been extremely careless and flippant if the pilots flew together when they knew they couldn’t get along. How do you think their communication would have been in the event of an emergency?

It’s extremely rare for two pilots not to get along to the point that one walks off the plane, but when it happens, I’m happy it does. It’s much better to deal with that situation on the ground than in the air. Of course we don’t know the full backstory here, and if these two pilots had any history, if they just got into a heated debate over something, or what.

But the pilots surely know there are consequences and they’ll have to answer for this, so I’d consider their actions here to be anything but careless or flippant.

Alaska Airlines also deserves credit for how smoothly this situation was handled operationally, as there was a further delay of less than an hour beyond the weather delay. Unfortunately that came at the expense of the Los Angeles flight operating on-time.

Lastly, the one thing I’m not sure about is whether it was a good idea to communicate the actual nature of the situation to passengers. I know they say “honesty is the best policy,” but I’m not sure that accomplished much here?

I think this might be a situation where just announcing “something came up with one of the pilots, and we will find a replacement pilot as soon as possible” might be the better communication strategy.

Bottom line

An Alaska Airlines flight from Washington to San Francisco returned to the gate after it was decided that they couldn’t safely operate the flight together. While we don’t know the nature of the disagreement, it’s extremely rare to see this happen. Alaska Airlines managed to quickly find a replacement pilot, so the flight was only delayed by a further hour.

Obviously this kind of situation is unfortunate and frustrating for all aboard, but I commend the pilot walking off if he felt he couldn’t safely operate the plane with the other pilot. Aviation is so safe because of always erring on the side of caution, and this should be no exception.

What do you make of this Alaska Airlines incident?

(Tip of the hat to Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

Conversations (38)
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  1. Lynn Guest

    Oh puhleez - 2 1/2 hrs late? I just spent the night wandering around JFK when two LAX- bound JetBlue flights were cancelled, the final one at midnight. Found my own standby the next morning and charged $75 for the privilege. I’d gladly take a 2.5 hr delay. I was in the airport 20 hrs total.

  2. jetjock64 Guest

    In general, airline pilots are supposed to compartmentalize and get on with the job. On the other hand, there may be some provocations that could be classified as "existential" and reasonably lead to a cockpit abort: if a pilot wants to break a sacrosanct safety rule or so egregiously insults a pilot on their race or ethnicity, something central to your being, so that crew coordination is engangered, then I can see how the crewmember...

    In general, airline pilots are supposed to compartmentalize and get on with the job. On the other hand, there may be some provocations that could be classified as "existential" and reasonably lead to a cockpit abort: if a pilot wants to break a sacrosanct safety rule or so egregiously insults a pilot on their race or ethnicity, something central to your being, so that crew coordination is engangered, then I can see how the crewmember may call an audible. Anything less would not qualify.

  3. Lisa Guest

    I wonder how many times a flight is delayed due to this type of situation but no one is ever told. I cannot stand not knowing why my flight is delayed and, of course, the attendants have no idea either. I think it was good that the pilots were transparent. My only scare in the end would have been if the remaining pilot was a douche and had some mental health problems. I think both pilots should have been replaced.

  4. RaflW Guest

    I wonder if the disagreement was in regards to some safety question. Did the captain, for example, want to proceed with the departure after an extended ground hold that put them under dispatch fuel load?
    Just a hypothetical, and it would only matter if there was WX and a diversion at the end of the flight (ie they'd risk a fuel emergency too soon in a standard wx hold) . If they left the...

    I wonder if the disagreement was in regards to some safety question. Did the captain, for example, want to proceed with the departure after an extended ground hold that put them under dispatch fuel load?
    Just a hypothetical, and it would only matter if there was WX and a diversion at the end of the flight (ie they'd risk a fuel emergency too soon in a standard wx hold) . If they left the gate with correct fuel, it might even be totally legal to depart, but the F.O. says " we should go back and fuel up" and at that point it's clear they don't have agreement on trusting the command?
    I'm just trying to think of a non-personality level 'fight' that breaks crew compatibility.

  5. AD Guest

    Alaska is the last airline where I'd expect this given how well their crews get along. As an example, in June I was waiting at DCA for a flight to PDX, the crew arriving from PDX (FAs and pilots) hugged ever member of the ground crew and every member of the crew operating DCA to PDX. I have to wonder if the dispute between the pilots has to do with the contract negotiations that are getting pretty heated.

  6. Malcolm Guest

    Btw: Is this an argument to have an extra pilot in the cockpit for safety and as a reserve, in case someone gets ill during flight, not to mention avoiding potential suicide attempts by rogue pilots that happened on MH317 and Germanwings. Of course, airlines will push back to save costs of carrying an extra pilot on every flight.

  7. Malcolm Guest

    Agree with your analysis. The pilot's actions were anything but "unprofessional" and he acted with transparency by sharing the reasons with the passengers instead of using an excuse like one of them was ill, which anyone would accept. The passengers complaining about being late should be ashamed of themselves. Would they rather be dead? Anyone who watches NG's Mayday knows that poor cockpit relations and communications can be deadly. Almost all air traffic accidents are...

    Agree with your analysis. The pilot's actions were anything but "unprofessional" and he acted with transparency by sharing the reasons with the passengers instead of using an excuse like one of them was ill, which anyone would accept. The passengers complaining about being late should be ashamed of themselves. Would they rather be dead? Anyone who watches NG's Mayday knows that poor cockpit relations and communications can be deadly. Almost all air traffic accidents are a result of human error, often trivial.

    Unfortunately, this is a typically American response of whining entitled consumerism. They demand seamless service at the cheapest price, but if the slightest thing is not to their satisfaction they bitch about it and look to blame someone. The airline and its staff did their jobs. Passengers should be grateful they took their responsibilities seriously and put their safety first.

  8. iamhere Guest

    What are the consequences for the pilot that walked off?
    Both pilots should receive consequences.
    AND no compensation to the passengers?

  9. Bob Guest

    Passengers were a bit dramatic. It was only a 2 hour delay for a cross country flight. Big deal. Getting $175 even if the ticket was business is not bad for 2hr delay. And I'm pretty sure if the plane was going down the 2 pilots wouldn't just go I hate you so much I'll just let the plane plunge into that corn field.

  10. DEE Guest

    SOunds likeone of the Prima Donnas needs to be fired??? Did the younger Bald pilot walk off first???? If so he should go

    1. Terry Guest

      Always a comment that should garner “Ignorant Comment Award”

  11. D3kingg Guest

    This is exactly why only one pilot is needed . Would you want to fly with pilots that were arguing ? Me neither.

  12. derek Guest

    There should be mandatory psychiatric evaluation, emergency psychiatric hold, and probable counseling.

    1. D3kingg Guest

      @derek

      Same should be done for passengers. License to fly.

  13. mdande7 Gold

    God, if that's the most traumatizing thing to happen to you, you've lived a very good life...

  14. jon Guest

    Feel bad for the passengers. But if things were really that bad in the cockpit, both pilots upset and not able to concentrate of safe flight, then I think the pilot did the right thing by not flying. If things were that bad, who knows what could have happened? Fist fight in flight? Would be great to read the incident reports that the pilots will fill out.

  15. Matthew Guest

    This is exactly what the pilot is supposed to do when there is a breakdown of CRM in the cockpit before a flight. Passengers may not like it but it would have been irresponsible and actually a violation of FARs if after a fight the pilot didn't refuse to fly. There is probably more to the story and Alaska if they haven't already WILL block each of them from the others line going forward.

    1. Gaurav Community Ambassador

      While this is what is supposed to happen, there was no need for what sounds like a very flippant announcement...

  16. Donna Diamond

    The biggest drama queens were the two pilots who couldn’t set aside their issues and do their jobs.

  17. Airfarer Gold

    Husband and wife perhaps?

  18. Leigh Guest

    Can’t wait to read what Kelsey or Mentour pilot might say about this situation!!

  19. stogieguy7 Diamond

    Totally agree about the passenger tweets: what a bunch of freakin' drama queens. "Oh I only got $175!" Really? That's $175 more than you're entitled to, sweetie. As for the others, my God none of them seem to have ever faced actual adversity in their lives. They'd better not leave the DC or Bay Area 'burbs, lest they be confronted with the real world.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      I’m unclear on the point you’re attempting to make.

      Is it “You should take the 2.5 hour inconvenience due to a spat between pilots and enjoy it!”?

    2. NathanJ Gold

      I think @stogieguy7 was completely lucid in the point he was making. Several pax tweets e.g. “Very scary that your pilots could be this careless and flippant”, “I have never been more traumatized by a flight experience” & "They only offered me $175 for this travesty" were examples of them being complete drama queens and/or wanting compensation over and above what they were entitled to. He never said or implied they should, "enjoy it", rather...

      I think @stogieguy7 was completely lucid in the point he was making. Several pax tweets e.g. “Very scary that your pilots could be this careless and flippant”, “I have never been more traumatized by a flight experience” & "They only offered me $175 for this travesty" were examples of them being complete drama queens and/or wanting compensation over and above what they were entitled to. He never said or implied they should, "enjoy it", rather that they should get a little perspective.

    3. stogieguy7 Diamond

      Basically, these people act as if this was the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. Yeah, it was inconvenient. But, I've had an AA crew not show up for a 5:00 am PBI departure because they partied too hard in Miami the night before (seriously). Did I get $175? Hell no, we just had to take our 2 1/2 hour delay as if it's part of the AA experience. And even this little story...

      Basically, these people act as if this was the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. Yeah, it was inconvenient. But, I've had an AA crew not show up for a 5:00 am PBI departure because they partied too hard in Miami the night before (seriously). Did I get $175? Hell no, we just had to take our 2 1/2 hour delay as if it's part of the AA experience. And even this little story is nothing compared with what happens when there's a weather issue and you're on your own in Atlanta or Charlotte or Chicago or Denver or Dallas or Detroit. For the night.

      In other words, these people are entitled millennial cry babies who are exaggerating the stupidity that went down. That's my point.

    4. Sarah Guest

      > But, I've had an AA crew not show up for a 5:00 am PBI departure because they partied too hard in Miami the night before (seriously). Did I get $175? Hell no, we just had to take our 2 1/2 hour delay as if it's part of the AA experience

      Yeah … you should’ve gotten the $175 just like these guys did.

      Delays for weather are one thing, delays because your pilots are...

      > But, I've had an AA crew not show up for a 5:00 am PBI departure because they partied too hard in Miami the night before (seriously). Did I get $175? Hell no, we just had to take our 2 1/2 hour delay as if it's part of the AA experience

      Yeah … you should’ve gotten the $175 just like these guys did.

      Delays for weather are one thing, delays because your pilots are unprofessional are very different. There absolutely should be a penalty to the airline for providing grossly unprofessional service. Many people actually rely on their scheduled flight times when making plans, and delays can be extremely costly. If those delays are purely the result of unprofessional service, then they should pay up.

      You complain about these people being entitled (and yes, the people “traumatized” are beyond ridiculous) but frankly it is far worse for a business to think it should be able to provide sub-par services to customers without paying a penalty for it.

  20. Stuart Guest

    Interesting, this exact flight was parked next to my Austrian Airlines flight departing Monday night. I only noticed it as they were using the Alaska Pride aircraft with the unique Pride color scheme. I thought it fun that they use it for SFO flights. We left at 5:35PM on time and I think JUST made it out before the storm settled in over Dulles. The Austrian pilots were taking some pretty large deviations around the...

    Interesting, this exact flight was parked next to my Austrian Airlines flight departing Monday night. I only noticed it as they were using the Alaska Pride aircraft with the unique Pride color scheme. I thought it fun that they use it for SFO flights. We left at 5:35PM on time and I think JUST made it out before the storm settled in over Dulles. The Austrian pilots were taking some pretty large deviations around the buildups so I can see any planes departing after being delayed.

    1. Stuart Guest

      Never mind, jet lag, I left Sunday night, lol.

  21. Adrian Guest

    They are lucky that both flights are operated by A320s, which is rare these days on these long haul routes.

    I agree with you that both pilots are not stupid and there will be investigations done by the company. I imagine that there is a backstory to it.

  22. Brian G. Member

    Obviously a rare event, but I have a feeling this happens more often than gets reported. But one of the pilots has a good sense of coming up with a good excuse like calling out sick.

  23. BK Guest

    IMHO, it's likely that the root of their disagreement involved something to do with the ongoing contract dispute between the pilots and management or union activity. Somebody called someone a scab or treated him like one. But we will never know.

    1. Goforride New Member

      He doesn't have a contract. That's not how it works.

  24. Eskimo Guest

    Bullying is a serious problem.
    Too bad as an adult you can't use playground rules and punch that bully anymore.

    1. Tom Guest

      I'm so glad Ben came down on the side of good CRM processes. The pilot who walked off might have saved lives and probably (!) should be commended rather than disciplined.

      (We obviously don't know what led up to the disagreement, but just with equipment issues, if in doubt, it's better not to fly with a potential problem unaddressed.)

  25. mOjO jOjO Guest

    One is a republican and the other is a democrat.

  26. Never In Doubt Guest

    Yikes! That’s a flight I sometimes take!

    Hope they find compatible pilots in the future!

    1. CHRIS Guest

      No. They're going to put the very same pilots on this flight the next time you're on it.

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

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mdande7 Gold

God, if that's the most traumatizing thing to happen to you, you've lived a very good life...

4
stogieguy7 Diamond

Totally agree about the passenger tweets: what a bunch of freakin' drama queens. "Oh I only got $175!" Really? That's $175 more than you're entitled to, sweetie. As for the others, my God none of them seem to have ever faced actual adversity in their lives. They'd better not leave the DC or Bay Area 'burbs, lest they be confronted with the real world.

4
CHRIS Guest

No. They're going to put the very same pilots on this flight the next time you're on it.

3
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