As Summer Plans are Made, Alaska Airlines Pilots Authorize Strike Vote

If it’s felt like things are going back to some level of normalcy for summer travel, don’t hold your breath. As Covid restrictions have gone away and people are beginning to travel like they used to, the pilots at Alaska Airlines have authorized a strike-approval ballot. This authorization will be in effect from May 9 through May 25. 

Alaska has tried to come to an agreement with the pilot’s union for three years as the country as a whole has suffered from a pilot shortage – causing Alaska to cancel hundreds of flights over the last year. 

The next step in the process is for the pilots to wait for authorization from the National Mediation Board (NMB) – an independent U.S. federal government agency which “helps to maintain the flow of interstate commerce in the airline and railway industries through representation, mediation and arbitration services.” A strike cannot be officially called unless authorized by the NMB, which would then release both sides from mediation and instate a 30-day cooling off period. After the cool off and provided an agreement is not reached during those 30 days, then either the pilots can strike or the airline can lockout the pilots from flying. 

The chairman of Alaska Airlines Pilots Association, Will McQuillen, said in a statement that the pilots didn’t want to strike, but did want an equitable contract from the airline – saying that their current contract leaves Alaska’s pilots lagging behind in terms of benefits and pay, and that pilots are leaving the airline for better opportunities elsewhere. Additionally, Alaska Pilots are planning a single day of strike for April 1, which will cause dozens of flights to be canceled for the day. 

Alaska Airlines has flown in and out of Portland International Airport since 1979, and currently flies to 51 different destinations from that airport. Alaska is also one of the major airlines to fly out of the Eugene Airport, offering direct flights from Eugene to several large cities including Seattle, Boise, and Chicago. 

By Sally K Lehman