Alaska Airlines cancels at least 71 Sea-Tac flights as pilots picket over ‘work rules frozen in time’

Apr 1, 2022, 9:39 AM | Updated: 2:22 pm

Alaska Airlines pilots have been working without a contract for three years, and some of them are staging walkouts along the West Coast.

Soon, there will be pickets in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Anchorage, and already, the airline has been forced to cancel flights. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport alone, at least 71 flights combined between arrivals and departures have been cancelled as of early Friday. More than 120 Alaska flights have been canceled company-wide.

That’s due to what Alaska Airlines is calling “a shortage of pilots which has created operational challenges.” It also says that it is “committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that recognizes the contributions of our pilots and supports them with increased pay, job security and greater work flexibility.”

Alaska Airlines flight evacuates after landing at Sea-Tac due to cell phone fire

“A new pilot contract remains a top priority for Alaska,” Alaska Airlines Vice President of Labor Relations Jenny Wetzel told KIRO Newsradio in a written statement. “We’ve put a package on the table that’s competitive and addresses the issues most important to our pilots.”

Talks between the airline and the union representing pilots have been ongoing since 2019, but were paused for a year “as the industry weathered the pandemic.” Alaska says that it filed for mediation in October of 2021, with a session scheduled for late April.

Meanwhile, pilots have voiced concerns over the fact that their last deal dates back nearly a decade.

“We’re working under a contract that was ratified in 2013,” Alaska Captain Will McQuillen told KIRO Newsradios. “Our work rules are frozen in time.”

For those who were booked on flights that were cancelled on Friday, the company says that is “working as quickly as possible to make things right and get them to their destinations.”

“It takes everyone at Alaska to run a successful and reliable operation,” the company said. “Today, we fell short. We’re grateful for all employees who are working hard to get our guests to where they need to go.”

Pickets at West Coast airports are expected to take place between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m on Friday.

KIRO Newsradio reporters Chris Sullivan and Nicole Jennings contributed to this story

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Alaska Airlines cancels at least 71 Sea-Tac flights as pilots picket over ‘work rules frozen in time’