Alaska Airlines cancels dozens of West Coast flights as pilots picket

the tail of an Alaska Airlines plane
An Alaska Airlines plane is parked at a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport gate on Jan. 5, 2022. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Dozens of flights along the West Coast were canceled Friday as Alaska Airlines pilots picketed during ongoing contract negotiations with the airline.

More than 100 Alaska Airlines flights were canceled by the airline, including 66 in Seattle, 20 in Portland, Oregon, 10 in Los Angeles and seven in San Francisco, according to the flight tracking website flightaware.com. Flights were also expected to be affected in Anchorage. Pilots planned to hold a rally and picket in all those cities on Friday, according to a union website.

Pilots with the Air Lines Pilots Association also protested last week in New York City outside the airline’s Investor Relations Day in a precursor of Friday’s picket.

The bargaining actions come as air travel rebounds to pre-pandemic levels and demand is surging as many Americans head off on spring break for long-delayed vacations. Frustrated travelers vented on social media about botched vacation plans and reported that there was a five-hour wait to speak with an airline representative about rescheduling flights.

The union says Alaska Airlines did not adequately prepare for a return to air travel after the pandemic and didn’t take the necessary steps to retain or attract pilots as demand bounced back. Issues that still need to be resolved include job security, work rules and quality-of-life provisions that provide flexibility and reasonable schedules, it said in a statement, and the current pilot contract falls well behind those at comparable airlines in several key sections.

Alaska Airlines said Friday that it values its pilots and respects their right to picket, but it also needs to negotiate a deal that allows the airline to maintain growth and profitability. Alaska Airlines is working to recover $2.3 billion in losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, it said in a statement.

The airline said it currently offers competitive salaries for its pilots. For example, an Alaska Airlines captain’s average salary is currently $341,000 per year, the airline said.

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