December 25, 2013
Dear Flight Attendants,
Merry Christmas to you and yours from your AFA Alaska Master Executive Council (MEC)!
We wish this were a simple message with tidings of goodwill from your AFA leadership. However, we know the reality is the joys of this holiday season have been tempered because of staffing issues at work over the past few days. In fact, several of our co-workers have had their holiday plans ruined because of junior assignment (JA).
To add insult to injury, did anybody get asked by their friends or family about recent media coverage regarding flight cancellations at Alaska Airlines? For those of you who have not already heard about this, media outlets across the country reported flight cancellations due to sick Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants and pilots. This story was widely circulated, even getting attention in national outlets such as USA Today (“Flu Hits Alaska crews, canceling flights.”)
Your MEC is here to set the story straight for our Members. First, no Inflight managers or supervisors who hold an FAA-certification as a Flight Attendant flew as minimum crew yesterday. Second, there were no Alaska Airlines mainline flights canceled due to Flight Attendant sick calls. That’s right—not one flight was canceled because of a shortage of Alaska Airlines Flight Attedants. Confused? Totally understandable!
That’s because all the canceled flights were operated by the other Alaska Air Group (AAG) carriers—such as Horizon Air or SkyWest—doing business as Alaska Airlines. That’s right—no flights canceled due to sick Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants but somehow we still get blamed for it. Not cool at all! However, if you check out the Alaska’s World article “Ops challenges: Horizon and SkyWest cancel flights due to illness, weather, mechanicals” (log-in required) you will see that the Company accurately reports cancellations at Horizon and SkyWest.
So what gives, you wonder? Well, in our humble opinion this kind of mix-up is bound to happen when Horizon and SkyWest planes are painted with the Alaska Airlines livery and the passenger tickets are sold as Alaska Airlines. Have you ever noticed that in announcements to customers the Horizon Air CSAs and Flight Attendants refer to the flight only as Alaska Airlines? They’re allowed to make only one passing reference that the flight is “proudly operated by Horizon Air.”
So as far as the customer sees, there are very few cues that Horizon Air and SkyWest are distinct carriers operated under separate certificates. No wonder why the media might report them as one and the same as Alaska Airlines! The MEC is aware Alaska Airlines management knew the media intended to report the cancellations in a blanket statement attributed to Alaska Airlines as early as the afternoon of December 23rd. The timing of the early media reports are unclear, however. Your MEC will definitely be digging further into this to understand the timeline and what clarifications, if any, were initiated by Alaska Airlines management to the media. Things that make you go “Hmmm…”
The story gets even more complicated. The AFA Alaska MEC has been in contact with our colleagues in the AFA Horizon MEC and they informed us AFA Horizon has raised concerns with their own management in regards to how the press release was handled. Obviously AFA Horizon objects to publicly blaming flight cancellations on sick Flight Attendants without any further explanation or qualifications. (Like staffing decisions, perhaps? Sound familiar?)
At the end of the day, it is extremely upsetting that Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants are being blamed for flight cancellations that never actually occurred at our carrier. Consequently, we have been caught in the cross-hairs of undesirable attention from the media, our customers and even our family and friends as a result of how this story was reported. The AFA Alaska MEC requests that Alaska Airlines management respond to our concerns as soon as possible.
We hope our Flight Attendants will find some comfort in knowing all the facts and that you will be able to tell your family and friends “It wasn’t us!”
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Terry Taylor, Yvette Gesch, Melanie Buker, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn and Sandra Morrow