This Major Airline's Pilots Just Voted for a Strike This Summer

If the strike moves forward, it could have a major impact on your summer travel plans.

This summer, many of us are taking full advantage of the season and booking some long-awaited travel or finally following through with plans deferred during the height of the COVID pandemic. With travel restrictions being eased across the globe, you might be ready to book your flights to an exciting new destination, but one airline may be a bit harder to fly in the coming months: On May 25, a majority of this carrier's pilots voted to authorize a strike. Read on to find out more about the strike, and how it could affect your summer plans.

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Airlines are working hard to meet increased demand.

woman looking at flight schedules
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As travel kicks back into high gear, airlines are working to keep up with the increased demand. According to the Transporation Security Administration (TSA), on May 24, approximately 2,020,742 passengers traveled through TSA checkpoints, which is an enormous increase from the same day in 2020, which saw just 264,843 travelers.

Airlines have added flights to their schedules to meet this need, but one carrier has been forced to make repeated cuts to its schedule due to ongoing staffing shortages. Now, those same issues could worsen considerably.

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An "overwhelming" percentage of pilots voted to authorize a strike.

An Alaska Airlines plane sitting on the runway
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On May 25, the "overwhelming" majority of Alaska Airlines' pilots voted to go on strike, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int'L (ALPA) announced in a press release. Of participating pilots, a whopping 99 percent said they would strike if necessary.

Alaska Airlines employs almost 3,100 union pilots, 96 percent of whom participated in the vote conducted by the Alaska Airlines master executive council of the ALPA.

If eventually carried out, this would be the first strike of its kind in 12 years. As reported by The Points Guy, the last pilot strike for a U.S. passenger airline was carried out by Spirit Airlines pilots in 2010.

Alaska Airlines pilots have been negotiating their contracts since 2019.

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As noted in the press release, the dispute stems from disagreements over pilot contracts, with negotiations ongoing for the last three years. Pilots are leaving the airline "at record numbers," the union said on its website, adding that their concerns have yet to be "meaningfully addressed" by management.

"For three years, Alaska pilots have been resolved in their commitment to reach a new agreement and today, we spoke with one unified voice, just like we did with our recent informational picketing event," Will McQuillen, Alaska Airlines captain and chairman of the Alaska Airlines ALPA Master Executive Council, said in the release, citing an April 1 picket attended by nearly 1,500 Alaska pilots.

"For years, we have been working toward a market-based contract with reasonable solutions that address work rules, scheduling flexibility, and career-security issues that pilots at other companies enjoy, not a strike. Now is the time for management to respond and engage constructively at the bargaining table," McQuillen added.

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Pilots are not on strike yet—and there are additional steps to take before they are allowed to do so.

pilot waiting in airport
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Travelers do not have to worry too much just yet, as there are a few major steps that need to be taken before pilots can actually refuse to fly. They would first need permission from the National Mediation Board (NMB), which is the airline industry's federal labor relations board.

According to the ALPA press release, the NMB will decide whether any additional mediation would be beneficial, giving both the pilots and the airline a chance to "arbitrate the contract dispute." Either party can decline the arbitration, which triggers a "cooling off" period, spanning 30 days. After that, pilots can strike, but management can also act by locking pilots out.

Considering this timeline, a strike will not be immediate, but it could ultimately affect peak travel season during the summer months, The Points Guy noted.

The airline issued a statement to travelers confirming that pilots are not currently on strike.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-790(WL) aircraft is airborne as it departs Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California USA
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In a statement issued the same day the vote was carried out, Alaska Airlines said the results were "expected," while also stressing that pilots are not officially on strike. "As ALPA said this morning, a strike can only occur after a specific, multi-step process involving the federal government and National Mediation Board," the statement reads.

The airline also reassured passengers that they are not directly affected by the vote and seemed to confirm it is in favor of negotiation. "Our guests and operation are not impacted by this vote," Alaska said. "We remain committed to reaching a deal to provide an updated contract that is good for Alaska's pilots."

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