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Hawaii Travel Could Be Upended As Alaska Pilots Approve Strike

Hawaii could be hit hard with news today from the Airline Pilots’ Association (ALPA). The union representing 39 U.S./Canadian airlines just announced that Alaska Airlines Pilots Vote Overwhelmingly to Authorize a Strike. Should a strike occur, it would be the first U.S. airline strike in more than a decade.

ALPA said that “they’re willing to strike if agreement on a new employment contract cannot be reached. With nearly 96 percent of members participating, an overwhelming 99 percent of Alaska pilots authorized union leaders to call a strike if necessary and when the parties are permitted by the National Mediation Board (NMB) to take that action.”

In what was the largest pre-strike event in the pilot association’s history, last month, more than 1,500 off duty Alaska pilots, “nearly half of the pilots employed by the airline, and their supporters, lined airports and streets at every Alaska Airlines base.”

Alaska Airlines said that an offer it deems “most generous” was made to bring their pilot contract into alignment with the rest of the airlines. Regarding the prospect of a strike, the company said, “we are in active negotiations with our pilot union and remain optimistic we can reach agreement.” The negotiations towards an agreement have been ongoing since 2019.

When could a strike occur?

We haven’t seen estimates of a possible date, but our sense it that it could be in the midst of the busiest summer travel season in years that’s about to start. There are steps that need to occur before a strike can take place. First, NMB must determine that further mediation won’t work; the parties must be given a chance to arbitrate; then, if either side declines arbitration, a 30-day cooling off period begins. After that, a strike could commence.

Significant rolling impact on all other Hawaii flights.

Each Alaska 737–800 flight has 159 seats. Doing the simple math means that thousands of seats could disappear out of the Hawaiai travel market. If that happens, and even if it doesn’t but becomes further anticipated, big problems will result. The other airlines flying to Hawaii could be flooded with demand for which they simply don’t have capacity. As we mentioned in this week’s earlier article, Pilot Shortage Impacting Hawaii Travel, the entire industry is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of staff, including pilots, that’ll likely preclude their ability to respond with increased airlift.

History of Alaska Airlines’ Hawaii flights.

Alaska Airlines has been a big player in Hawaii travel for the past fifteen years following their arrival, first in Honolulu. Since then, Alaska has also acquired Virgin America and its Hawaii routes. Their Hawaii route map now includes 4 nonstop flights to Kona, 4 nonstop flights to Kauai, 6 nonstop flights to Maui and and 6 nonstop flights to Honolulu. In fact, Alaska said that “Hawaii now accounts for about 15 percent of our route network.”

Losing 20 nonstop Hawaii flights would create a big problem both for Hawaii-bound visitors and for Hawaii residents traveling.

Does the prospect of a strike by Alaska this summer cause you to change airlines?

13 thoughts on “Hawaii Travel Could Be Upended As Alaska Pilots Approve Strike”

  1. Not this summer, but, come winter could be serious. We are snowbirds to the Big Island and are very loyal to Ak airlines. Certainly hope that doesn’t change?

  2. Alaska Airlines pilots will Not be striking this summer. The last time the pilots at a major airline went on strike was in June 2010 (Spirit Airlines). The Spirit pilots voted to authorize a strike in April 2009. So it took 14 months for the National Labor Relations Board to release them (allow them, in other words) to strike. And back then, Spirit only had about 30 planes (they now have about 180). Alaska Airlines has about 230 mainline aircraft (plus about 100 regional jets and turboprops operated for them by Horizon Air and Skywest). The NRLB will take all the steps available to themselves to prevent a strike, and failing that – to postpone it as long as possible. You – could – see various slowdowns, refusal to pick up OT, etc.

  3. Pilots that already make good money complaining about making more money to do even less work. Meanwhile aircraft mechanics are classified as “unskilled labor”, work long hours in all different types of weather each and every day to ensure all aircraft are safe for travel.

    1. If you knew the costs and amount of study and training it took to get to the Major Airline level you wouldn’t be saying pilots make too much.

      On top of that, bi-yearly medicals ( eyes, EKG’s, hearing), yearly jeopardy training, yearly jeopardy line checks, schudules that change monthly, missee birthdays, graduations, anniversaries.

      Add in multiple red eye flights a month, reduced rest overnights where pilots typically get 6 hrs of actual sleep. A missed signature in a log book, or a line service guy miss calculates a wing clearance. Guess who ends up in the boss’s office?

      If pilots missed as much as any other profession, planes would fall out of the sky once a day.

      If pilots were as off as Fauci, forget about trusting airplane travel.

      1. You obviously know nothing about what aircraft maintenance technicians do or are responsible for

  4. Well, as what may turn out to be a formerly loyal Alaska Airlines customer I may be casting off for a better place to spend my money.

    I view this as a slap in the face from a group of people, Alaska Pilots, to strike after the federal government subsidized them for not working during the early stages of the Covid Pandemic. The US Government shored up the airline industry to the tune of $74 billion dollars, mostly to keep staff (i.e. pilots) on their rosters. Now here they are, biting the hand that has kept them fed.

    1. I don’t know the particulars but the company owes the pilots a fair working agreement and if the company is digging in their heels this may very well be the only recourse the pilots have. That said this is just a step in the process, too bad the company had to push it this far rather then settle. But in no way can Alaska justify paying below industry standard wages. I suspect talks will get serious now. The strong vote in favor says volumes about whose at fault for letting it get this far.

      1. Alaska doesn’t pay below industry standard. That’s just nonsense the pilots who want even more money to do even less continue to say

      2. There is not much history of pilot strikes of airlines serving the state of Alaska——the most recent of any scale was the ALPA pilot strike against Wien Air Alaska during the 1970s, first resulting in the hiring of scabs (qualified non-union pilots) to run the airline but later was the trigger of a domino effect that eventually resulted in Wien going bankrupt and out of existence. I lived through that while a resident of Nome. Suffice to say that in Alaska’s bush (read it rural areas where there are NO roads or railroads), airlines are the only freight and mail carriers which – beyond the unlikely event of a new labor/management agreement – leaves only an unlikely possibility of federal intervention. Jim E

    2. If anyone thinks this potential strike action would not cause a problem, they have not looked far enough to realize that Alaska Airlines is the only scheduled passenger carrier serving many cities in Alaska. The last time ALPA struck a scheduled airline serving Alaska was the disastrous strike against the now defunct Wien Air Alaska 47 years ago. At that time ALPA de facto effectively isolated many people and businesses for their own self-serving reasons. Jim E


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