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Alaska Airlines, pilots reach agreement on new contract

Sept. 24, 2022
3 min read
Alaska Airlines 737-900ER at San Jose airport
Alaska Airlines, pilots reach agreement on new contract
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After more than three years of negotiations, Alaska Airlines and its largest pilots’ union have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract.

The agreement reached on Friday, confirmed by the union and airline, includes pay increases for the more than 3,000 Alaska pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association and comes after a lengthy negotiation process that saw pilots picketing at key Alaska hubs earlier this year and included the vast majority of pilots in the union voting in May to authorize a strike — though a strike never did take place.

The agreement must still be ratified by pilots in Alaska’s union; a process expected to start “in the coming weeks,” the union said.

The negotiations, which started in 2019 but took a hiatus between 2020 and 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, included pilots calling for raises, along with demands centered around scheduling flexibility, job security and what the union called “improved quality of life.”

It appears that the agreement meets what union leaders were seeking, including on the issue of pay. “We are pleased, after three years, that we have reached an agreement addressing all the areas in which we’ve lagged our mainline carrier pilot peers for nearly a decade,” Capt. Will McQuillen, chair of the Alaska pilots union, said in a statement announcing the news Friday evening.

"The [tentative agreement] consists of significant improvements in the areas we know are most important to our pilots: increased pay, greater flexibility, better benefits, and job security," Alaska Airlines management said in a statement to TPG Saturday.

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Arriving at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Raises part of the agreement

As part of the tentative agreement, captains with the Seattle-based carrier will see raises that fall between around 15% and 23% this year, depending on service. That includes a 23% raise for mainline captains starting out with Alaska, according to a framework for the deal released by the union. The deal includes more incremental raises for pilots in 2023 and 2024. By 2024, captains just starting out with the main line carrier would make $300 per hour and those with 11 or more years of service would make nearly $331 per hour.

"Two industry market checks are included to keep pay rates competitive with your industry peers throughout the three-year deal," airline officials told TPG Saturday.

As part of the same agreement, first officers would see raises this year between 8% and 21%, depending on seniority.

The negotiations — and, indeed, this agreement — come as the entire airline industry has grappled with a shortage of pilots that contributed to flight disruptions seen during much of 2022; a problem that’s also led to carriers, including Alaska, temporarily reducing flight schedules at times, and seeking new ways to recruit, train and retain pilots.

Bottom line

While the Alaska Airlines pilots union still has to ratify this tentative agreement, the fact that a deal has been reached after a lengthy negotiation period is certainly encouraging news, ending three years of talks and likely quelling fears of any future potential pilot strike.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.