Travelers must expect Alaska Airlines to be canceling flights at a high rate for weeks

Travelers must expect Alaska Airlines to be canceling flights at a high rate for weeks

SEATTLE — In a message to Alaska Airlines employees Thursday night, CEO Ben Minicucci said the high level of flight cancellations since April this month will continue, but added that stability should return to the flight schedule in June.

“Of the 1,200 flights we operate every day, we have canceled about 50, about 4%. This comes at a time when flights are already fully booked, so rebooking options are limited and many of our guests have experienced exceptionally long wait times,” wrote Minicucci.

“We will continue to see these cancellations through June 1st. We are working to manage these to reduce the impact as much as possible.”

The chaos has hurt Seattle’s home airline.

Passengers whose travel plans were seriously disrupted found little help from the airline in finding alternate routes to their destinations, with customer service phone lines citing waits of up to 10 hours.

In a subsequent video message for the traveling public, posted to YouTube Friday morning and emailed to Alaska’s Mileage Plan members, Minicucci offered an apology.

“I am deeply sorry,” he said in the two-minute video. “I hear every day from friends, neighbors and guests how disruptive our flight cancellations have been.”

He then repeated the message he had sent to staff, saying that “the month of May will continue to be a choppy one” but that “we have made significant changes for June and beyond to ensure a high level of reliability.” “.

In his message to employees, Minicucci acknowledged that responsibility for the situation rests with management.

“Since April we’ve canceled too many flights, disrupted too many plans, stretched our teams too far,” Minicucci wrote. “There are no excuses. The leadership team and I are taking responsibility and executing a plan to fix this and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

He also stressed that the chaos was not due to actions by the pilots’ union, which is holding talks on a new contract and considering strikes. That option remains a long way off.

“I want to be clear – our pilots are not on strike,” Minicucci said.

[Airlines trim summer schedules, aiming to avoid high-profile meltdowns]

The reason for the spate of cancellations in April and May is that “there aren’t enough pilots to fly our spring flight schedule,” he told staff.

He said Alaska took off in April and May with 63 fewer pilots than needed to fly the published flight plan. The management only recognized this deficiency too late.

After the first spate of cancellations on April 1, Alaska cut the flight schedule, but “there was no way to completely close the gap,” Minicucci said.

He then outlined the plan to fix the problems: Management has centralized staffing and scheduling into one team, and prioritized the hiring, training, and recruitment of pilots, flight attendants, and other work groups.

However, he said it will take time for the airline’s complex operations to turn the tide. A remedy is only in sight in June, he wrote, when a further 114 pilots would be available.

He told staff the airline should get back on track in July and August.

“By July and throughout the rest of the summer travel season, we should be able to fly again with a reliable and well-staffed company,” Minicucci said. “An additional 50 pilots, 400 flight attendants and 200 reservation agents will join our ranks.”

“Although we have reduced our flight volume for this summer, we are not reducing our hiring plans,” he added. “Our goal is to have significantly more employees on board before we accelerate growth again.”

The cancellations since April have shaken the confidence of some longtime Alaska Airlines loyalists. Tom Lennon and his wife, both MVP Gold level in Alaska’s loyalty program, were stuck in New Orleans when Alaska canceled their flight last weekend.

“I don’t really know what it takes to regain my faith in Alaska,” Lennon wrote in an email to the Seattle Times.

Minicucci ended his video message to the public with an appeal to passengers to keep their trust in the company.

“Long term, Alaska is a resilient airline with a 90-year history,” he said. “We’re going to get this right and be the Alaska you can count on again.”

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