Why we’ve canceled flights, and what we are doing to get back on track 

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER photographed May 24-25, 2016 by Chad Slattery across California.

At the beginning of this month, we let down some of our valued guests by canceling an unusual number of flights. To all of you who were impacted, we are deeply sorry. We put you in a frustrating situation—most likely when you were looking to take a fun trip, family vacation or needed to get somewhere important to you. We must do better. Over the last few days, we looked at how we got here, and are taking action to get back on track. We’re committed to being the airline you love.  

Sharing what happened and what we’re doing about it doesn’t fix upended plans, but we value our relationship with our guests, and that means being transparent with you when we fall short. 

How we got here

With travelers taking to the skies again, all airlines are focused on recruiting and training more pilots, Alaska included. We’re excited to grow more pilot careers, especially after more than 10,000 pilots left the airline industry during the pandemic. To bring new pilots into our ranks, we launched a new pilot academy, founded a program to develop and support BIPOC pilots and continue to support the careers of pilots that want to move from our regional carrier Horizon Air to a job at Alaska.  

When pilots come to Alaska Airlines, we want them to have the best training in the business. That takes time and cannot be rushed. 

Unfortunately, during the first few months of 2022, a backlog built up in our training program. Trainings were canceled and delayed due to student or trainer illness during the Omicron surge and due to the operational impact of winter storms, and they were not rescheduled fast enough. 

At the same time, we typically schedule our flight crews three months in advance. But due to the training delays, we had 63 fewer pilots prepared to fly in April than we planned for in January.  

We should have recognized this sooner and updated our schedule. 

Securing a new contract for our pilots

It’s important to clarify that our pilots are not on strike. As part of standard contract negotiations, our pilots planned an informational picket on Friday April 1 to share their views, and we respect their right to do so. This informational picket was not the cause of our cancelations. We’re committed to reaching an agreement for a contract that is good for our pilots, recognizes their contributions to Alaska, and supports the company’s ability to grow for all 22,000 Alaska and Horizon employees and all who depend on us. To that end, the proposal we recently offered is the highest contractual investment we’ve ever proposed in our history and would make our first officers the highest paid in the industry.   

Moving forward

We are making immediate changes to ensure you can count on us to get you where you want to go. There are some aspects to our post-pandemic world that create new challenges, but we can get more disciplined about how we manage them and adapt:

Short-term corrections  

We are through the worst of the cancelations. We’re reducing about 2% of our total flights through the end of June to match our current pilot capacity. These reductions will be reflected in our posted schedule in mid-April. In the meantime, reductions will show up as cancelations.  

We will do everything we can to minimize disruptions to your plans and we will let you know in advance if your itinerary is impacted by these schedule adjustments. For those who are impacted, the unique phone number in your message from us will get you to someone who can help without an extended wait.  

Improving pilot training graduation rates 

We will graduate more than 30 pilots this month, and even more in May. A dedicated team has been deployed to ensure training events are rescheduled faster and ensure we better match our schedule to the number of pilots we have available to fly. We doubled the capacity of our pilot schoolhouse since the fall and are training more trainers.  

Our employees, guests and partners continue to make us better every day. When we fall short, you can trust that we will be transparent, apologize and work to correct it as quickly as possible. As we make progress, we will update you regularly in the months ahead. 

We fly airplanes with great care so that you can have great adventures, connect with loved ones, run your business and go where you need to go. And we’re committed to doing that reliably for many years to come.

As always, thank you for flying with us.