SEATTLE — Thousands of Alaska Airlines passengers found themselves stranded, including many at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as flights were canceled for a third straight day.
The airline said this is due to a pilot shortage and ongoing negotiations with the pilots union.
The airline canceled 73 flights Sunday, including 33 at Sea-Tac Airport.
The airline provided KIRO 7 with numbers and the cancellations have impacted more than 37,000 travelers since flights were first canceled Friday.
KIRO 7′s Kevin Ko talked with several passengers whose flights were canceled Sunday.
“Basically, just been redirected from line to line, trying to get us a new flight. I’ve waited in this line once already, so here I am again,” traveler Patrick Monreal said.
“I had to ask my friend to watch my dog for another day. I had to tell my teachers that I’m not able to be there tomorrow. I had to cancel babysitting. I was supposed to be doing (it) tomorrow. So, this was really big, inconvenient waste of time,” Kendra Parker said.
While the airline said there is a pilot shortage, the pilots union said it is on the airline.
“I think it’s on the airline and not the pilots. But that’s not my expertise,” Monreal said.
“We’re ready and we want to fly. We just simply don’t have enough pilots at this time to execute the schedule the company has put forth,” said Will McQuillen, the Alaska Airlines MEC chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association.
McQuillen represents the pilot for the union and said pilots are quitting in droves because the working conditions don’t meet the industry standard of other airlines.
“The attrition that we’ve seen is not just amongst new pilots. We are losing pilots who have been here for a number of years. We lost captains to other airlines and that is so unique,” McQuillen said.
The negotiations have been ongoing and Alaska Airlines said it has offered a fair deal but pilots disagree.
The high number of resignations mixed with increased demand for flights is leading to the travel troubles and the pilots association said it saw it coming.
“What you’re seeing is something that we warned the company about late last fall and ongoing warnings issued throughout the spring about the fact that attritions was becoming a material concern. That they would have enough pilots to operate the schedule,” McQuillen said.
McQuillen said he fears cancellations will be inevitable in the days to come, especially with the spring break season ramping up.
“That will stop, that will stop once we have a comprehensive agreement. Can’t emphasize that enough,” said McQuillen.
As of Monday, 21 Alaska Airlines flights have already been canceled.
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