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.