ALPA says Horizon pilots flying Alaska Air routes is outsourcing

But is it bad for Alaska’s economy?
One of 30 E-175 regional jets flown by Horizon Air to Bristol Bay communities
One of 30 E-175 regional jets flown by Horizon Air to Bristol Bay communities(Mike Nederbrock)
Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 7:21 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Earlier in October, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines had the first flight to Dillingham and King Salmon with E-175 regional jets. Those planes are owned and operated by Horizon Air — also based in Seattle. The Air Line Pilots Association is raising the flag, saying that it should be Alaskan pilots flying those planes.

Alaska Airlines Pilot and ALPA Anchorage Council 64 Chairman Captain Jeff Schroeder, wrote a recent editorial about how these Bristol Bay communities need the expansion of service since Ravn Air went out of business. However, he writes that the Horizon routes are “a loss of high-quality jobs over what we could have in this region.”

“Work performed by other airlines—especially those based outside the state of Alaska—represents a loss of jobs to our local economy. Unless it is a Boeing 737 series or Airbus 320 series, even though the paint on the aircraft says Alaska Airlines and the ticket says Alaska Airlines, it is being flown by another carrier. Despite commonalities related to agreements under a holding company known as the Alaska Air Group, the pilots flying Horizon planes are not Alaska Air-lines pilots”

Capt. Jeff Schroeder, ALPA

Both the CEO of Horizon, Joe Sprague, and the Regional Vice President of Alaska Airlines, Marilyn Romano, rebuke those claims. Both pointed out that Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines are “wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Alaska Air Group.”

“We have no jobs outsourced outside of Alaska Air Group. In fact, with additional or year-round flying in places like King Salmon and Dillingham, or taking over airport operations in places like Kodiak when Ravn stopped flying, we actually hired new airport employees, with some formerly with Ravn, which has been great considering we are in the middle of the pandemic.”

Marilyn Romano, Alaska Airlines

Publisher of the Alaska Travelgram, Scott McMurren, described the relationship between Horizon and Alaska as two sides of the same coin. He is in favor of the new services because they open up a slew of benefits to the people of Bristol Bay who were without winter routes since Ravn went under.

He said with these flights, those communities are better connected to other services and Anchorage, and people are able to go there throughout the year to spend money at local stores.

He said that, yes, the pilots flying these planes may not live in Alaska like many of the resident pilots described in Schroeder’s editorial. However, there are a lot of employees who have more work with more planes in the air.

“They’re not the only ones,” McMurren said about the pilots. “There’s the people who run the tugs, the people who run the jet-ways, there’s the people who are checking people in, there’s the people who put the bags on and off, you know there is a huge group of people that make each and every flight possible.”

For McMurren, he said the benefits of having these routes flown by Horizon vastly outweigh the costs described by Schroeder.

In a statement provided by ALPA from Schroeder, he describes a grim future he sees if these kinds of decisions continue.

We encourage this sort of expansion into the State. At the same time, we are growing increasingly concerned as the routes that have for decades been flown by Alaska Airlines pilots—many of whom live in the state—are being transferred to other companies staffed mostly by outside workers. If this becomes a trend, it will negatively impact Alaskans, the local economy, and ultimately the pilots of Alaska Airlines.

Capt. Shroeder, ALPA

Sprague said in an email that they have no intention of taking over.

“Horizon is excited to complement, not replace, Alaska Airlines flying in the state and we’re honored to serve Alaskans and their unique travel needs,” he wrote.

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