Alaska airlines flight arriving at Bozeman Airport
Alaska Airlines flight arriving at Bozeman Airport, Montana on February 12th. Photo: Twitter @Bozemanairport

Dozens of Alaska Airlines flights have been cancelled this Friday morning due to an ongoing pilot shortage. 

Pilot shortages strike again 

Major American airline Alaska Airlines faced troubles when their flights in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were cancelled because of ongoing pilot shortages.

Travellers who had already booked flights with Alaska Airlines were notified. 

Later the same day, Alaska Airlines’ pilots planned to have an informational picket, a public demonstration by a labour union or group for the purpose of drawing attention to an issue of concern for those in the union/group. 

Alaska Airlines’ pilots have been dealing with issues with the airline for up to three years. They say that they are being underpaid and overworked in comparison to pilots at United, Delta, and American Airlines. As a result, the pilots are advocating for their contracts and wages to be similar to that of their competitors. 

Alaska Airlines aircraft
Pilot shortages have been impacting airlines across the globe | © Boeing

Alaska Airlines released a statement regarding the picket, citing their respect for the fact that the pilots have the right to engage in “lawfully protected activities to voice their concerns.” 

The airline continued, speaking of their commitment to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that will recognise the contributions of Alaska pilots and supports them with increased pay, job security and greater work flexibility.”

The statement finished with the importance of growing the airline’s staff. 

“It’s also vital for Alaska Airlines to negotiate a deal that allows us to maintain growth and profitability for a strong future. It’s crucial we continue to provide all of our employees with competitive pay and benefits as we hire more people, invest in new planes and fly our guests to new destinations. We believe the goals of the company and the goals of our pilots complement each other.”

This pilot shortage comes as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport predicts that travel in and out of the airport is expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels as spring break travel gets underway, around 80 – 85% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Also known as Sea-Tac, this Seattle based airport is the primary commercial airport serving Seattle | © Kuow Photo/Megan Farmer

Jenny Wetzel, Vice-President of Labour Relations for Alaska Airlines, spoke on the matter. She stated how the airline has prioritised the finalisation of a new contract for pilots and elaborated further on what that means:

“A new pilot contract remains a top priority for Alaska,” said Jenny Wetzel, vice president of labor relations for Alaska Airlines. “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.”

Wetzel continued and said that the union had been presented with a “comprehensive proposal”. The highlights included a top of scale wage of $280 per hour for captains and a market wage adjustment a year after the contract was ratified to keep pilots’ wages competitive with peers at other airlines. The job security of the pilots would be increased, and pilots will be able to enjoy “significant flexibility” in how Alaska Airlines pilots can set their schedules. 

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