Alaska Airlines announces 2% reduction in flights until July

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines

Chad Slattery / Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines announced Thursday that it is canceling 2% of its total flights until the end of June, as the company is struggling with an ongoing pilot shortage.

The airline has canceled more than 110 flights, many at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in the last three days. As of Thursday night, another 15 flights are scheduled to be canceled on Saturday. In a statement Thursday, the airline apologized for the cancellations.

“Earlier this month, we let some of our valued guests down by canceling an unusual number of flights. To all of you who were affected, we are deeply saddened, ”it said. “We put you in a frustrating situation – most likely when you were looking for a fun trip, family vacation or needed a place that was important to you. We need to do better.”

The airline points to a nationwide pilot shortage as the reason for the recent period of cancellations. More than 10,000 pilots left the industry during the coronavirus pandemic. The airline is taking many steps to combat the shortage, including working with its sister company, Horizon Air, to establish a new pilot academy in Oregon.

However, winter storms and the omicron rise resulted in several pilot training sessions being canceled earlier this year. This created a backlog in training sessions, which the airline says it was unable to resolve in time for April.

“We typically plan our flight crews three months in advance,” the airline said. “But due to the training delays, we had 63 fewer pilots ready to fly in April than we had planned in January. We should have recognized this before and updated our schedule. “

Going forward, the airline says it will reduce 2% of its total flights until the end of June as a way to prevent unplanned cancellations. Changes will be reflected in the airline’s new schedule, which it will announce sometime in the next week or so. Until then, reductions will show up as cancellations, the airline said.

“We will do everything we can to minimize disruption to your plans and we will notify you in advance if your itinerary is affected by these schedule adjustments,” the airline said. “For those affected, the unique phone number in your message from us will lead you to someone who can help without any longer waiting time.”

To put these reductions into perspective, the airline had an average of about 1,300 flights a day before the pandemic. Assuming the airline has more or less returned to pre-pandemic daily flights, a 2% reduction in flights will result in about 180 fewer flights per week until July.

By that time, the airline should be in control of the problem. It says it plans to train 30 pilots this month and even more in May. The airline also says it is working to avoid further training backlogs at its pilot academy.

“A dedicated team has been deployed to ensure that training events are reorganized faster and to ensure that we better match our schedule to the number of pilots we have available to fly,” it said. “We have doubled the capacity of our pilot school house since the fall and are training more coaches.”

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