Alaska Airlines pilots voting on strike authorization

The vote comes as air travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Voting will close on May 25.

SEATTLE — At least 30 Alaska Airlines flights were canceled in or out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Monday and Tuesday, just as the airline’s pilots began voting on whether or not to authorize a strike.

The conspicuous timing comes as air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. There were a series of flight cancellations over the weekend, however, neither side claims the labor issues had anything to do with it.

Still, with every passing cancellation, the Seattle-based carrier known for its customer service faces negative publicity that it is unaccustomed to receiving.

Neither side in the dispute wanted to talk publicly about the vote and instead referred to emailed statements and websites.

“Alaska pilots are not looking to strike. We are looking for improvements to our contract in line with the market but that will also allow our company to grow and remain successful and competitive,” said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA MEC in a prepared statement. “However, we are willing to take any lawful steps necessary, including a legal strike, to achieve the contract every Alaska pilot has earned.”

Voting will continue through May 25. If pilots vote to strike, it will touch off a 30-day cooling period, and potential mediation and negotiations. Officially, the 3,100 member union says it is looking for “better scheduling flexibility and job security.”

Alaska Airlines says the company opened negotiations in the summer of 2019 and that both sides agreed to table discussions during the pandemic. The company said it has since offered the “most generous contract offer in our history.” Alaska, the nation’s fifth-largest airline, also says it will not negotiate in public.

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