By SPENCER PAULEY
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Airlines Pilots Union continue contract negotiations as flights from the airlines continue being canceled.
The airline said in a statement on April 7 that it is through the worst of the cancellations and that the company is “reducing about 2% of (its) total flights through the end of June to match (its) current pilot capacity.”
Alaska Airlines said the reason many flights were canceled in early April was due to pilot training delays in which the airlines had “63 fewer pilots prepared to fly in April than (the company) planned for in January,” the airline said in its statement.
These training delays came as a result of student and trainer illnesses during the omicron surge, as well as winter storms halting operations over the past winter.
However, these flight cancellations came coincidently at the same time as pilots, fellow crew members within Alaska Airlines picketed outside airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Anchorage.
The pilots union has been negotiating with Alaska Airlines on a new contract since the spring of 2019. In an open letter to Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, the pilots union asked him and the company to “do the right thing” and “provide the same quality-of-life and job security improvements that pilots at other major airlines already enjoy.”
The pilots union said Alaska Airlines is trying to distract the public from the company’s mismanagement and failure to staff up enough for future flights despite receiving government support during the pandemic.
“Alaska Airlines received a $2.3 billion bailout from American taxpayers during the pandemic to weather the economic downturn, retain its workforce and be ready to take advantage of the recovery we are now experiencing,” the pilots union said in a statement April 1. “Yet, despite all of this, Alaska Airlines failed to properly plan for increased travel demand and take the steps necessary to ensure it attracted and retained pilots.”
Although employees of Alaska Airlines have shown their disapproval with the company through picketing, the pilots union is not on strike as of now. Alaska Airlines said in a statement that it is committed to reaching an agreement with the pilots that recognizes their contributions to the company.
“The proposal we recently offered is the highest contractual investment we’ve ever proposed in our history and would make our first officers the highest paid in the industry,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.
As for the future of Alaska Airlines flights, Alaska will “graduate” 30 pilots in April with more in May as well. The company said it will ensure it better matches the schedule with the number of pilots available to fly in the future.