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Alaska Airlines cancels 9pc of flights over staffing woes

PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) – Alaska Airlines cancelled dozens of United States (US) West Coast flights on Friday as off-duty pilots picketed in several major cities over an impasse in nearly three years of contract negotiations, and the airline said more cancellations were possible through the weekend.

More than 120 Alaska Airlines flights were cancelled – about nine per cent of its operations – and about 15,300 passengers were affected, the airline said in a statement. Cancelled flights included 66 in Seattle; 20 in Portland, Oregon; 10 in Los Angeles; and seven in San Francisco, according to the flight tracking website flightaware.com.

At the same time, pilots held a rally and picket line in all those cities, according to a union website. Pilots with the Air Lines Pilots Association also protested last week in New York City outside the airline’s Investor Relations Day in a precursor of Friday’s picket.

Those on the picket line on Friday said they were off-duty and were not to blame for the cancelled flights.

“It takes everyone at Alaska to run a successful and reliable operation. Today, we fell short. We’re grateful for all employees who are working hard to get our guests to where they need to go,” the airline said in the statement that did not mention the picketing.

The cancellations come as air travel rebounds to pre-pandemic levels and demand is surging as many Americans head off on spring break for long-delayed vacations.

Frustrated travellers vented on social media about botched vacation plans and reported that there was up to a 10-hour wait to speak with an airline representative about rescheduling flights.

Many said they couldn’t fly out for a day or two.

Travellers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport check the status of flights on displays inside a gate terminal in Seattle. PHOTO: AP
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