Alaska Airlines’ “major flight disruptions” last week were not caused by its own pilots picketing over failed contract negotiations, the Seattle-based carrier claimed on Friday.
Instead, Alaska Air blamed the interruption on COVID-related employee illness, terrible weather, and its own poor planning, which began just over a week ago.
Alaska Airlines’ spokesperson has been obliged to emphasize that pilots’ educational picketing events were not the cause of the major flight cancellations and that pilots are not taking part in any type of strike action.
The fact that the first wave of short-notice cancellations came on the same day that pilots mounted a picket appears to be a coincidence. So, how did Alaska Air get up here?
The airline claims it has a pilot shortage due to a training backlog that developed in the first few months of 2022.
“Training was canceled and delayed due to student or trainer illness during the Omicron surge and due to the operational impact of winter storms, and they were not rescheduled fast enough,” a spokesperson explains.
“At the same time, we typically schedule our flight crews three months in advance. But due to the training delays, we had 63 fewer pilots prepared to fly in April than we planned for in January.”
“We should have recognized this sooner and updated our schedule,” the company said in a statement.
Alaska says it had no choice but to cancel over 100 flights on the same day last Friday after failing to recognize the shortfall earlier.
Alaska has cut its schedule by roughly 2% through the end of June, despite the fact that the carrier should have passed the worst of the short-term cancellations.
According to the Allied Pilots Association, which represents Alaska pilots, the airline failed to adequately plan for growing travel demand and take the required procedures to assure pilot recruitment and retention.
According to the union, Alaska is having difficulty recruiting new pilots because competitor carriers provide greater wages.