Pilots at Alaska Airlines voted to approve an agreement with the company Monday after almost three years of negotiations over working conditions and wages.
The vote comes after Alaska Airlines management and the leadership of its pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association, agreed to a tentative deal in September, which included pay raises and new work rules that would increase schedule flexibility and decrease the number of days pilots are away from home. The union said the agreement would also increase job security because Alaska Airlines agreed not to outsource flying to regional carriers without a specific exemption from the union.
On Monday, 96% of eligible Alaska pilots cast ballots to vote on the proposed deal. Eighty-two percent voted in favor of the new three-year agreement.
“For years, we’ve been polling our pilots to ensure this agreement would meet their needs, and today’s vote makes it clear that the major deficiencies in our contract have been addressed,” Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines Master Executive Council, said in a statement through the union.
“Our goal was to negotiate an agreement where our pilots could make Alaska Airlines a lifelong career and not just a stepping stone to another airline,” McQuillen said. “This contract is good for our pilots and their families and also good for our airline.”
Under the new agreement, wage increases could reach 23%, depending on years of service. “Top-of-scale captains” will make $306 per hour, which will increase to $330 after two years.
Leading up to the agreement, the union’s hand was strengthened by the ongoing shortage of pilots at airlines across the U.S. That followed the severe contraction of pilot jobs during the pandemic and the industry’s failure to bring them all back when the pandemic eased.
As air travel returned in the spring, Alaska’s management touted plans for accelerated growth, proposing to expand its airplane fleet from 300 to 400 airplanes by 2025. A deal to strengthen the pilot ranks was necessary for those aggressive expansion plans to move forward.
In April, almost half of Alaska pilots took part in an off-duty picket as negotiations between the union and the company continued to drag on. In May, the pilots voted to authorize a strike if a deal could not be reached.
Alaska Airlines chief financial officer Shane Tackett said Monday the company was pleased that its pilots would be working under a new contract in the next couple weeks.
“I have deep respect for our pilot negotiators who advocated for their peers and helped us reach an agreement that addresses pilot priorities while also setting the company up for long-term success,” Tackett said. “The new contract ... positions us to remain competitive in attracting top pilot talent as we rebound to pre-pandemic levels.”