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Alaska Airlines Points to Staffing Shortages As Carrier Pares Back Summer Schedule
Alaska Airlines’ summer scheduling woes continued as the airline was forced to cancel additional flights due to poor planning and staffing shortages.
“Of the 1,200 flights that we operate every day, we’ve been canceling about 50 of them, roughly 4%,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Miniucci wrote in a message to employees May 12. “This is coming at a time when flights are already full, so rebooking options are limited and many of our guests have experienced extraordinarily long hold times.”
Miniucci added that he expects normal operations to resume in June and into the summer but the cancellations as of the past few months have been deeply troubling for Alaska.
Miniucci pointed to the airline needing 63 more pilots in order to fill schedules. Airline pilot shortages among staffing shortages as a whole have been what Alaska Airlines and many other airlines say is the cause of their cancellations.
Alaska Airlines customers weren’t shy to voice their opinions either with many taking to Twitter and other social media sites to call out the airline. Customers reported wait times as long as 10 hours for service.
More Potential Problems
The Alaska Airlines pilot shortage comes as no surprise given the recent demands from the Alaska Airlines pilot union which represents the company’s 3,100 members. The union recently authorized a strike due to a lack of progress made between the two sides. The airline and union are currently under federal mediation with the National Mediation Board and both sides would need to be released from mediation in order for a strike to take effect. Many believe this strike would come during the peak summer season should it happen.
“Alaska Airlines pilots are not on strike,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement on Wednesday. “As ALPA said this morning, a strike can only occur after a specific, multi-step process involving the federal government and National Mediation Board. Our guests and operation are not impacted by this vote. We remain committed to reaching a deal to provide an updated contract that is good for Alaska’s pilots.”
It is likely in Alaska Airlines’ best interest to work with the pilots union ahead of the summer season. Miniucci’s promises of the carrier getting “back on track” could go unfulfilled as a pilot strike during peak season could impact the airline for months and cause cancellations far beyond what the company has dealt with so far.
Airlines in the U.S. may have been too ambitious when it came to their summer planning for 2022. Operating a 2019 pre-coronavirus schedule in a post pandemic world where shortages can be found everywhere from agriculture products to staffing is just not feasible.
United Airlines was recently able to breathe a sigh of relief when many of its 777-200s were authorized to fly just last week. Despite that , it is likely that passengers will continue to see cancellations as airlines scale back their operations heading into the summer.
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