Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci has told employees and passengers that flight cancellations and disruptions will continue through the month of May as the carrier battles a severe staffing shortage.
Alaska Airlines Flight Cancellations Will Continue
It has been a dismal couple months in terms of operational performance for Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. The carrier has cancelled dozens of flights a day, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
In a note to employees reviewed by the Seattle Times, CEO Minicucci explained the problem:
“Of the 1,200 flights that we operate every day, we’ve been canceling about 50 of them, roughly 4%. This is coming at a time when flights are already full, so rebooking options are limited and many of our guests have experienced extraordinarily long hold times. We will continue to see these cancels through June 1st. We are working to manage these to reduce the impact as much as possible.”
Specifically, Alaska Airlines is 63 pilots short to run its current schedule. The inevitable result is daily flight cancellations.
With hold times up to 10 hours and few alternative booking options due to full flights, passengers frustrations have risen to new heights.
Impressively from a leadership perspective, Minicucci took responsibility for the delays rather than trying to pass the buck:
“Since April, we have canceled too many flights, disrupted too many plans, stretched our teams too far. There are no excuses. The leadership team and I take responsibility and we’re executing a plan to get this right and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
He also stopped short of blaming pilots for the problem: “I want to be clear – our pilots are not on strike.” (pilots are playing hardball as they negotiate for a new contract)
Minicucci also apologized to Alaska Airlines frequent flyers via a video posted on YouTube:
“I’m deeply sorry. I hear every day from friends, neighbors and guests about how disruptive our flight cancellations have been.”
As in the employee memo, Minicucci conceded “the month of May will continue to be choppy” but offered hope “for June and beyond, we’ve made significant changes to ensure a high degree of reliability.” One such changes includes centralizing the team for staff and schedule planning.
Relief is coming for Alaska Airlines…but not until at least June and possibly not until July.
“By July and through the rest of the summer travel season, we should be back to flying a reliable and well-staffed operation. An additional 50 pilots, 400 flight attendants and 200 reservations agents will have joined our ranks.”
For now, flying Alaska Airlines may be frustrating.