Alaska Airlines to cut 2% of flights through June, apologizes for recent disruptions

Apr 7, 2022

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Alaska Airlines is cutting 2% of its total flights over the coming months as part of an effort to prevent future cancellations. The airline is blaming a slew of recent flight disruptions and cancellations on an ongoing pilot shortage.

As TPG reported last weekend, the airline canceled hundreds of flights over the first couple of days in April.

In a statement Thursday, Alaska Airlines apologized for the disruptions, and said leaders at the Seattle-based carrier have spent the last few days examining what caused the problems and are now “taking action to get back on track.”

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What triggered the recent issues

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The airline said it ended up with 63 fewer pilots prepared to fly in April than plans – set in January – called for. According to the carrier, the discrepancy stemmed from a series of disruptions at its training academy over the winter, triggered by the omicron surge of COVID-19. The impact of winter storms led to canceled training sessions not being rescheduled quickly enough.

“We should have realized this sooner and updated our schedule,” Alaska Airlines said in its statement, adding, “There are some aspects to our post-pandemic world that create new challenges, but we can get more disciplined about how we manage them and adapt.”

Related: What to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

In the short term, the carrier said it is reducing about 2% of its total flights scheduled through the end of June, to match its current pilot capacity. Alaska Airlines said this will be reflected in its posted schedule in mid-April, but in the meantime, these flight cuts will show up as cancellations.

According to data from FlightAware, the carrier canceled 5% of its flights both Wednesday and Thursday.

Growing trend

This isn’t the first time this year Alaska Airlines has had to cancel a large number of flights. Back in January, the carrier canceled 10% of its flights for the month, after a TPG analysis showed nearly 10% of its flights got canceled during the critical holiday period.

Airlines across the board have faced staffing challenges in recent months, as thousands of pilots left the industry during the pandemic; a series of staffing departures led to Alaska establishing its pilot academy and numerous airlines making route cuts.

Airline: Contract negotiations not to blame

Alaska Airlines insists the cancellations earlier this month – which caused significant disruptions April 1 – were not connected to the ongoing contract negotiations between the carrier and its pilots’ union.

The hundreds of cancellations on April 1 coincided with pickets Alaska Airlines pilots and supporters held at the airline’s hubs.

Airline officials made clear Thursday that its pilots are not on strike.

Going forward

As for cancellations that are still to come, Alaska Airlines said affected travelers will receive a call from a unique number tied to a customer service representative, which they can call back to get assistance without a long wait.

With an eye toward avoiding similar disruptions in the future, Alaska Airlines said it is expected to graduate 30 pilots from its academy this month, and more in May. The carrier also added that it has deployed a “dedicated team” to ensure training events are scheduled more quickly.

The airline also promised, “We are through the worst of the cancellations.”

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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