Alaska Airlines cancellations: CEO says 'ripple effect' to continue causing flight disruptions through May
SEATTLE - Alaska Airline's CEO said Friday that about 50 flights are still being canceled each day, and the month of May "will continue to be choppy."
Ben Minicucci said in a video posted on YouTube that the outlook is better in "June and beyond" as they add 150 pilots, 200 reservation agents and 1,100 flight attendants.
"I hear every day from friends, neighbors and guests about how disruptive our flight cancellations have been," said Minicucci. "Simply put - we had 63 fewer pilots than what we planned for when we built our scheduled. By the time we caught this error, April and May schedules were bid on by our pilots and flight attendants, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations. This error has continued to have a ripple effect for many of the 1,200 flights that we operate every day."
Minicucci apologized for "not living up to the commitment" of running a great operation.
In April, thousands of travelers were delayed, or re-routed, as a domino of cancellations affected airports. At the time, Alaska said the issues were dealing with an industry-wide pilot shortage paired with a backlog of training programs that impacted their flight crews. They announced a 2% reduction in total flights through June – however, issues are still unfolding.
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The cancellations spiked again at the beginning of May and continued into the month.
Alaska Airlines pilots prepare to vote on strike-authorization
Alaska Airlines pilots began to vote this week whether they want to go on strike.
The decision won’t happen overnight. The pilots union will vote through much of May, but a spokesperson with Alaska Airlines admits: the company believes the "strike-authorization ballot" will pass.
"While talk of a ‘strike’ is concerning, especially for guests and the communities that rely on us, they don’t happen quickly or without significant advance notice," said the spokesperson. "We’re confident we can get a deal through mediation and believe in this process because it has worked for airlines for decades."
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In other words, while the strike-authorization vote will wrap up later this month – the fallout would not be immediate. A deal could still be struck before pilots would officially strike.
"Alaska pilots are not looking to strike," said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA MEC in April. "We are looking for improvements to our contract in line with the market but that will also allow our company to grow and remain successful and competitive. However, we are willing to take any lawful steps necessary, including a legal strike, to achieve the contract every Alaska pilot has earned."