Alaska Airlines recently announced significant changes for their flying in the state of Alaska. In the wake of the collapse of RavnAir, many communities have lost their connection to the broader national air network. Bringing another Alaska Air Group carrier, like Portland-based Horizon Air, to replace many of these connections may make sense for Alaska Airlines, but we hope the arrival of Horizon transpires in a way that makes sense for consumers and workers at Alaska Airlines as well.
Work performed by other airlines — especially those based outside the state of Alaska — represents a loss of jobs to our local economy. Unless it is a Boeing 737 series or Airbus 320 series, even though the paint on the aircraft says Alaska Airlines and the ticket says Alaska Airlines, it is being flown by another carrier. Despite commonalities related to agreements under a holding company known as the Alaska Air Group, the pilots flying Horizon planes are not Alaska Airlines pilots. The Anchorage-based pilots of Alaska Airlines by a large majority live in Southcentral Alaska, and many of us have been a part of the fabric of our communities for many years and in numerous cases generations. Any flying performed by a different carrier represents a loss of high-quality jobs over what we could have in this region. Anchorage-based Alaska Airlines pilots by and large spend their wages in our local economy.
With that reality and the current economic situation where every Southcentral job counts, we hope to see Alaska Airlines utilize Horizon Air to feed the current Alaska Airlines route network. Horizon Air should be flying flights that Ravn previously flew. Connecting passengers from cities that do not currently have jet options is something that can help Alaskans and Alaska Airlines, and assuming continued connections to Alaska Airlines flights, it can benefit Alaska Airlines pilots as well. We applaud and encourage this type of investment in our community. On the other hand, utilizing the recent emergency to outsource flying currently performed by Alaska Airlines pilots should be viewed very dimly indeed. It appears that’s exactly what is planned in several markets and that’s likely just a beginning. We fear the incremental changes that are likely as Alaska Airlines may choose to outsource more flying in the state to these out-of-state workers.
Luckily, the way forward for Alaska Airlines on this issue is clear, and it has been for several decades. Rather than selling tickets on another airline, the company should seek to partner with the Airline Pilots Association (its pilots’ union) on the very real issue of job security — not because it limits options, but because it legitimizes the trust that employees place in management. The pilots of Alaska Airlines remain focused on safely delivering our passengers and cargo. We hope that our management shares our concern for safety and a locally sourced workforce to transport Alaskans and their commerce.
Capt. Jeff Schroeder is Anchorage Council 64 Chairman for the Airline Pilots Association.
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