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Alaska Airlines Cancels 9% Of Services Following Pilot Picketing

Alaska Airlines canceled over 120 flights on Friday as off-duty pilots and supporters held picketing events at critical airports across its network. The canceled flights represented almost 10% of the airline's capacity and impacted more than 15,000 guests.

Fellow crew members and supporters joined the pilots at coordinated events held in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle to express frustration over stalled contract negotiations. The disruptions resulted in the airline canceling an additional 88 flights on Saturday, April 2nd.

Ongoing contract negotiations

Pilots of the oneworld carrier, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), have been negotiating a new contract for three years but have failed to reach an agreement. The airline and union, the largest of its kind, have yet to agree on several critical issues, including job security, scheduling, and increased pay.

The picket events were held in tandem at five Alaska Airlines airports as the carrier canceled flights across the whole network. The airline confirmed to Simple Flying that the cancelations were continuing into a second day:

Communicating with our guests is important: We’re notifying them if their flights are impacted and we’re doing what we can to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible. We know the sudden cancellation of their travel plans is frustrating – we apologize to all of our guests who we let down.
We remain grateful for all our employees who are working hard to get our guests to where they need to go.

The cancellations, which have continued into the second day, represent about 7% of flights and impact more than 12,000 guests. Alaska Airlines has cautioned that additional cancellations are possible over the weekend.

Talks will resume later this month.

The airline began negotiating with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) in the summer of 2019. The ALPA is the largest airline pilot union globally and will go into mediation with the carrier later this month. The process is designed to facilitate an agreement between the two parties and resumes after a year-long mutual pause in talks.

"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," said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska ALPA Master Executive Council.

Jenny Wetzel, vice president of labor relations for Alaska Airlines, also expressed her enthusiasm for discussions to resume:

“A new pilot contract remains a top priority for Alaska. We’ve put a package on the table that’s competitive and addresses the issues most important to our pilots. It’s a significant financial investment in our pilot group while recognizing that we are still working to recover from $2.3 billion in losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are eager to conclude negotiations quickly so our pilots can enjoy these new benefits as soon as possible.”  

The airline recently began offering double pay to current flight attendants to work more than 100 trips per month, as the entire industry faces a labor shortage.

This article originally appeared on Simple Flying

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