Alaska Airlines cancels dozens more flights, as pilot shortage continues

Alaska Airlines canceled and delayed dozens more flights Saturday as a pilot shortage continued to wreak havoc with its schedule.

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At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the airline canceled 59 flights and delayed 28 others before 9 am, according to FlightAware.

Overall, Alaska canceled 88 flights as of 9 am, about 7% of its operation, affecting more than 12,000 passengers, the airline said in a statement.

The number was continuing to grow almost by the minute.

On Friday, the airline canceled 68 flights at Sea-Tac and more than 120 overall, affecting at least 15,300 passengers.

“Our operational performance today was below the level many of us expect,” Capt. John Ladner, Alaska’s vice president of flight operations, wrote in a Friday email to Pilots. “The primary driver for our performance right now is the shortage of Pilots we have available to fly versus what was planned when we built our April schedule in January.”

Ladner cited the level of attrition as a major factor, and said Alaska was offering 150% of pay to pilots willing to pick up extra flights.

The airline has been locked in contract negotiations with its Pilots Union for three years. Some Alaska Pilots picketed Friday near the airport and elsewhere.

“Today you and your fellow Pilots demonstrated on the informational picket line and sent a clear message about your priorities and that you’re willing to fight for a market-rate contract, one that gives you better security and flexibility in your work schedules,” the union said Friday in a message to its members.

Pilots have been stretched to their limit, the Air Line Pilots Association added, and the current cancellations were predictable. “All of you saw it coming.”

In its Saturday statement, Alaska said it was notifying passengers and doing what it could to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible. “We know the Sudden cancellation of their travel plans is frustrating – we apologize to all of our guests who we let down.”

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