Hawaii may be hit hard with news today from the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). The union, which represents 39 US / Canadian airlines, has just announced that Alaska Airlines pilots are overwhelmingly in favor of approving a strike. In the event of a strike, it will be the first U.S. air strike in more than a decade.
ALPA said that “they are willing to strike if no agreement is reached on a new employment contract. With nearly 96 percent of members in attendance, an overwhelming 99 percent of Alaska pilots authorized union leaders to go on strike if necessary and when the parties were authorized by the National Mediation Council (NMB) to do so. ».
In what was the largest pre-strike event in the history of the pilots’ union last month, with more than 1,500 pilots out of service in Alaska, “almost half of the pilots employed by the airline and their supporters toured airports and streets at every Alaska Airlines base. “
Alaska Airlines said it had made an offer it considered “more generous” to align its pilot contract with other airlines. Regarding the prospect of a strike, the company said, “we are in active negotiations with our pilots’ union and we remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement.” Negotiations for an agreement are underway since 2019.
When can a strike occur?
We have not seen estimates for a possible date, but we believe it could be in the middle of the busiest summer travel season in years to come. There are steps that must be taken before a strike can take place. First, the NMB must determine that further mediation will not work. The parties must be given the opportunity to arbitrate; then, if either party refuses to arbitrate, a 30-day withdrawal period begins. After that, a strike may begin.
Significant impact on all other flights to Hawaii.
Each Alaska 737–800 flight has 159 seats. Doing the simple math means that thousands of seats could disappear from the Hawaiian travel market. If this happens, and even if it does not happen, but it becomes further expected, big problems will arise. The other airlines flying to Hawaii could be flooded with demand for which they simply do not have capacity. As we mentioned in last week’s article in Pilot Shortage Impacting Hawaii Travel, the entire industry is facing an unprecedented shortage of staff, including pilots, who are likely to rule out their ability to respond with increased aviation.
History of Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii.
Alaska Airlines has been a major player in Hawaii travel for the past fifteen years, first to Honolulu. Since then, Alaska has also acquired Virgin America and its routes to Hawaii. Their route map to Hawaii now includes 4 direct flights to Kona, 4 direct flights to Kauai, 6 direct flights to Maui and 6 direct flights to Honolulu. In fact, Alaska said that “Hawaii now accounts for about 15 percent of our route network.”
The loss of 20 direct flights to Hawaii would pose a major problem for both Hawaii and Hawaii travelers.
Does the prospect of an Alaska strike this summer challenge you to change airlines?