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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Alaska Airlines hit with another wave of delays, cancellations

Alaska Airlines planes are parked at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on March 1, 2021. The airlines experienced several delays and cancellations over the weekend.  (Associated Press )
By Dominic Gates Seattle Times

Seattle Times

Alaska Airlines passengers suffered another bad run of flight cancellations over the weekend.

Internal data from Alaska, obtained by the Seattle Times, showed 47 flights were canceled on Friday and 41 more on Saturday, affecting the travel plans of 13,500 passengers.

Independent data from airline flight tracking firm FlightAware showed another 61 cancellations Sunday, 8% of Alaska’s total scheduled flights.

FlightAware showed the trouble bleeding into Monday, as planes out of position caused further cancellations. As of 9 a.m., Alaska had canceled 36 flights Monday, or 5% of its schedule.

According a mid-morning check at Spokane International Airport, one departure had been canceled at 8:45 a.m., but all other arrivals and departures remained “scheduled” or had arrived.

Meanwhile, Alaska’s pilot union on Monday emailed a strike authorization ballot to its members. The pilots have through May 25 to complete the ballot.

The cancellations caused more chaos for travelers and drew numerous complaints about Alaska’s service and support.

“Alaska is in meltdown,” wrote Dale Christensen via email Saturday. “They’re squandering years of customer goodwill.”

After Alaska canceled his Sunday evening flight home to Seattle on two days’ notice and offered no alternatives, he left the New Orleans Jazz Festival early and booked the only flight home he could get: an 11-hour journey via New York on Delta Air Lines.

Others slammed Alaska on Twitter.

“Hey @AlaskaAir, is there any reason for me to keep flying with you at all?” wrote one Bellingham resident after his flight from Seattle to Chicago was canceled Sunday.

And an Edmonds woman labeled her tweet with the hashtag “#infuriating” after checking in online Sunday for a Monday morning flight from Boston to Seattle for her family of four, only to find it canceled.

She had received no email or text, and the hold time for a customer service agent on the phone was more than four hours. She said she got a $500 refund and had to book a flight on another airline for $545 for each passenger.

Alaska was alone among the major U.S. carriers with this level of canceled flights over the weekend. Rival airlines all showed less than 1% of scheduled flights canceled on Sunday, except for Delta at 2%.

Alaska did not immediately have an explanation for the weekend cancellations, which followed even worse chaos in early April and at the beginning of this month. On both occasions, Alaska blamed a pilot shortage.

In response to those incidents, Alaska management said it would reduce its schedule to match the number of available pilots so as to avoid last-minute cancellations.

However, while there are fewer such cancellations than in early April, the ongoing problem is clearly damaging the airline’s reputation.

In a union message to the pilots Friday, Air Line Pilots Association Alaska unit chairman Will McQuillen called for a 100% strike vote to convey a message of resolve to management.

The union will hold informational gatherings about the vote to answer questions from pilots and their partners.

The ability of transport workers, including airline pilots, to strike is governed by the Railway Labor Act, which mandates a drawn-out mediation process before a strike could happen.

Spokesman-Review reporter Thomas Clouse contributed to this report.