Alaska Airlines Subsidiary Flights Continue to Be Canceled Due to Pilot Shortage

Jul 11, 2017

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Horizon Air has hit some bumpy air this summer, with mass flight cancellations due to a pilot shortage. Horizon, a regional carrier and Alaska Airlines subsidiary, was forced to cancel more than 318 flights recently.

The airline has now announced that it will be cutting even more flights through August. And according to a tip from TPG reader Herb M., his Monday flight from Calgary (YYC) to Seattle (SEA) was canceled with only two days of notice due to “shortage of pilots.”

Horizon doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its 52 Bombardier Dash 8-400 aircraft. The cancellations represent 6.2% of all Horizon flights in August. According to the Seattle Times, about 17,000 passengers with Horizon Air flights from August 4 through September 3 have had their flights canceled, although they were rebooked on different same-day Horizon or Alaska itineraries. Passengers affected should have received an email notifying them of their flight change. There are no additional cancellations beyond what was previously shared, Horizon spokeswoman Ann Johnson told TPG.

Horizon CEO Dave Campbell even said that the airline is studying its fall and winter timetables “to ensure we have schedules that we can reliably operate.” Luckily for travelers, the company has tried to eliminate flights on routes with multiple daily frequencies, like Seattle (SEA) to Portland (PDX) which it currently flies 26 times a day.

Horizon currently serves 45 cities throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the West Coast and Western Canada, and it was purchased by Alaska in 1986. Johnson blamed the cancellations on the “unprecedented” growth of Alaska Airlines and pilot attrition. Alaska started its merger with Virgin America earlier this year.

To attract new pilots to the company Horizon is offering hefty bonuses, up to $20,000 dollars for those who can fly a Q400, and starting pay has been raised from $30 to $40 an hour. And to make sure the planes keep flying while they build back up its staff, Horizon increased overtime pay to 200% of a pilot’s salary instead of 150%.

Cancellations may be temporary, though, as it’s possible that if Horizon can build back up its staff to normal levels, it will be able to operate normally. Its June and July new-hire pilot classes were completely full, with 30 trainees expected to finish the program each month, said Johnson.

Pilot shortages are not new to the aviation industry. Republic Airways blamed its 2016 bankruptcy on a lack of skilled aviators. Johnson added that now “things are looking up for Horizon” and that pilots recently ratified a contract with “top of the industry wages.”

Featured image courtesy of George Rose via Getty Images.

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