After many of its pilots staged what the aircrew union described as “non-disruptive informational picketing” to protest stalled contract negotiations, Alaska Airlines claims it is facing “major flight cancellations.”
The Seattle-based airline said it had been forced to cancel at least 120 flights by late Friday morning, stranding more than 15,300 passengers. The specific reason for the cancellations remained unknown, but a spokeswoman cautioned that more disruption was expected over the weekend.
In their dispute with Alaska Airlines, pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) were scheduled to hold educational picketing activities in five major cities across the United States. The union had promised a “non-disruptive” rally at Seattle SeaTac Airport, which was scheduled to be the largest.
“They’re trying to distract the public from their mismanagement and blame the pilots who helped save their company,” commented the Alaska Airlines Master Executive Council over the airline’s decision to start canceling flights.
The airline has been understaffed for months, according to the union, and it is difficult to recruit new pilots since Alaska’s salary and conditions aren’t appealing.
“In fact, just this week, ALPA met with two corporate vice presidents who made clear that they have failed to adequately retain and staff up to meet a predictable return to flying,” the union slammed.
Negotiations had been ongoing for more than three years but had been put on hold because of the pandemic. “We are committed to obtaining a collective bargaining agreement that acknowledges our pilots’ contributions,” the airline said.
The case has been referred to a federal mediator, but Alaska believes that any agreement must guarantee the airline’s ability to meet its development ambitions. Later this month, more conversations with the mediator are planned.