Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci announced that the airline is canceling dozens of flights every day to offset the ongoing pilot shortage.
“The month of May will continue to be choppy,” Minicucci explained in a video clip posted to YouTube.
In recent months, the airline has ramped up hiring and offered incentives for flight attendants as it grapples with the industrywide pilot shortage.
Of the 1,200 flights that it operates every day, the carrier is canceling about 50 of them, or about 4%, according to the chief executive.
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Minicucci said the troubles began when the airline started April and May with 63 fewer pilots than it planned for when it built its schedule.
“By the time we caught this error, April and May schedules were bid on by our pilots and flight attendants, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations,” Minicucci continued. “This error is having a continued ripple effect for May.”
The schedule adjustment comes at a time when travelers are already flooding back to airports nationwide, with airport traffic nearing pre-pandemic levels.
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To make matters worse, since flights are already full, “rebooking options are limited,” Minicucci said. He also acknowledged that even getting in touch with someone in the reservations department has proven to be a challenge for passengers.
Minicucci said he has been getting complaints every day from friends, neighbors and passengers regarding the carrier’s disruptions.
Last month, the carrier already announced that it was forced to cut flights through the end of June, although it would try to minimize disruptions and alert affected passengers in advance.
The carrier projected last week that it should be back to “flying a reliable and well-staffed operation” by July.
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By that time, “an additional 50 pilots, 400 flight attendants and 200 reservations agents will have joined our ranks,” the airline said in a press release.