Alaska Furloughs


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Sad news for everyone within the Airgroup....

Alaska Airlines is reducing capacity 8 percent compared to a year ago, effective with its winter schedule starting Nov. 9 and continuing into 2009. The decline represents 15 percent fewer departures and 10 percent fewer block hours.

The numbers

Employee group Anticipated reduction

Flight attendants: 325-350
Pilots: 150-190
Reservations agents: 130-150
Customer service agents: 185-200
Aircraft technicians: 10-35
Stores agents 2-3
Ramp agents: 55-60
Other groups 3-7

As a result of the smaller schedule, Alaska is reducing its operational work force by 850 to 1,000 employees. The airline is working with the unions representing these employees to offer early-out and six-month to two-year leaves of absence to minimize the number of involuntary furloughs.

Affected employees will leave the company starting in November and continuing through early 2009.

“The one-two punch of record oil prices and a softening economy, on top of increased competition, has burdened Alaska Air Group with a $50 million loss on an adjusted basis for the first half of this year. That demands decisive action to ensure the viability of our company,” CEO Bill Ayer said.

“We are changing our schedule to make sure we’re flying the right routes with the right frequency and right aircraft. Regrettably, a reduced schedule means we need fewer employees.”

Although oil prices have fallen from their peak this summer, the company still spent 43.5 percent more on fuel in August than it did a year ago — even with the benefit of hedging. And Alaska’s passenger traffic is down for 2008, a trend that accelerated during the busy summer season. The airline carried 358,000 fewer customers in June, July and August than it did last summer — a 7 percent decline.

“We expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Andrew Harrison, Alaska Air Group’s managing director of planning. “As a result, we’re being aggressive in pulling down capacity where we see lower demand. At the same time, we’re being very mindful of competition in Southern California and the Bay Area.”

Alaska Airlines is trimming its schedule in four ways:
• Canceling low-demand flights on Saturdays and holidays.
• Reducing flights — typically one roundtrip a day — in high-frequency markets, including Seattle-Bay Area and Seattle-Southern California. The carrier will fly one more daily Seattle-San Francisco and Seattle-Los Angeles roundtrip, however, than it did a year ago.
• Operating certain flights between Portland and the Bay Area with 70- to 76-seat Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jets and Q400 turboprops flown by Horizon Air, instead of larger Boeing 737s flown by Alaska.
• Ending seasonal service on three Mexico routes between San Francisco and Cancún, Mazatlán and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.

The carrier also ended service between Portland and Orlando and between Vancouver and San Francisco on Aug. 24. No major changes are planned for intra-Alaska flying, however, except for the elimination of two daily roundtrips between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Some of the capacity from these schedule changes is being redeployed in new markets, including two daily flights between Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul starting Oct. 26 and one daily flight between Seattle and Kona, Hawaii, beginning Nov. 17. Thrice-weekly seasonal service between Anchorage and Kahului, Maui, will be offered Oct. 31 through April 25, 2009.

“We will continue to be nimble in responding to changing market conditions by trimming capacity from underperforming routes and redeploying it where customer demand is stronger,” Harrison said.