Pilot Shortage Causes Cancellations

Even as Alaska Airlines announced last week it will launch in 30 more markets in the next six months, we’re hearing that Horizon, the regional leg of Alaska Air Group, was forced to cancel more than 318 flights in June because it didn’t have enough pilots to fly all its planes.

The shortage became a crisis this past month and the airline is now pre-emptively canceling flights later in the summer and is weighing if it needs to pare its schedules for the rest of the year.

In an effort to reduce cancellations, it’s also sending out managers who are qualified pilots to fly the planes and offering double pay to pilots who fly extra flights.

On Thursday, Horizon Chief Executive Dave Campbell sent a memo to employees announcing that the airline is cutting multiple flights in August and is studying its fall and winter timetables “to ensure we have schedules that we can reliably operate.”

Campbell wrote that the pilot shortage, coupled with the airline’s unprecedented growth as it has added aircraft, “created a perfect storm.”

“June will go down as our ‘bump in the road’ — our moment when things got too far off track, and now, we must decide how to recover,” Campbell told employees. “We have established a war room to daily manage potential cancellations.”

About 17,000 passengers who have already booked flights between Aug. 4 and Sept. 3 that are now canceled will be automatically rebooked on Horizon or Alaska flights leaving either earlier or later that same day.

Alaska Air spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said those passengers should already have received an email informing them of the flight change. She said Horizon has targeted cancellations for routes where the airline flies multiple times per day. (Seattle Times)

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