- The Association of Flight Attendants Alaska (AFA Alaska) may conduct a CHAOS strike effort in late spring or summer of 2024 if a better-paying contract is not agreed to.
- Alaska Air Group is in the process of acquiring Hawaiian Airlines, but there are several regulatory hurdles to overcome.
- Alaska Airlines is upgrading airport lobbies to improve the customer experience and reduce stress by eliminating lines plus adding new routes.
- Concurrently, Alaska Airlines is continuing its current sustainability efforts.
Alaska Airlines, the mainline airline of the Alaska Air Group that includes the regional subsidiary Horizon Air, has plenty to look forward to in 2024. Below is a review of likely turning points for the company in the year ahead.
Will 2024 have a Summer of CHAOS?
With the Association of Flight Attendants Alaska (AFA Alaska) calling a strike authorization vote starting in January, the risk exists for an effort to Create Havoc Around Our System (CHAOS) – the first for Alaska Airlines since the historic 1993 CHAOS strike… hence the “Pay Us or CHAOS” chants heard and signs seen at each AFA Alaska picket:
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
It is possible that after almost certain passage on February 13 and if there is a release from mediated talks, AFA Alaska may conduct another CHAOS effort in the late spring or summer of 2024, barring a severe improvement in Alaska Airlines’ management’s financial offer. Below is a recent AFA Alaska Instagram posting:
AFA Alaska is committed to winning with three 2023 systemwide informational pickets and a fourth planned for February 13. In response, in the December 22 Seattle Times, Alaska Airlines’ Chief Financial Officer Shane Tackett shared a sentiment that beginning wages for flight attendants need to be increased and anticipates investing $400 million or 40% of 2019’s profit margin in additional costs to settle the flight attendant contract. Nonetheless, the current low pay affects flight attendants’ ability to eat, house, medicate, and care for families.
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
Simple Flying remains focused on this crisis, especially as other elements of Alaska Air Group’s future – including an acquisition effort – are at risk.
Acquiring Hawaiian Airlines
On December 3, Alaska Air Group and Hawaiian Airlines leaders announced a plan to have Hawaiian Airlines acquired by Alaska Air Group. Nonetheless, Hawaiian Airlines is open to unsolicited offers from other airlines – with the clear understanding Hawaiian Airlines is committed and focused on completing the acquisition agreement.
Photo: christianthiel.net | Shutterstock
The plan is intended to be financed by $1 billion in Alaska Air Group cash and accepting $900 million of Hawaiian Airlines’ debt – and will bring the two airlines under one operating certificate, merging union seniority lists, and operate as two separate brands under the Alaska Air Group.
Hawaiian Airlines is joining Alaska Air Group – this is a breaking news story
Additionally, according to the Association of Flight Attendants Hawaiian Airlines chapter (AFA Hawaiian), the effort will take several years. As per an AFA Hawaiian December 6 statement,
- The Hawaiian shareholders must vote on and approve the deal.
- The US Department of Justice must approve the merger, which HA management says will take 18 months.
- Then, the corporate transaction happens for Alaska Air Group to own Hawaiian Airlines.
- The FAA must approve a single operating certificate.
- Many other regulatory hurdles.
- A Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) must be negotiated to combine the groups.
The endeavor has inspired Simple Flying’s analysis of the two airlines’ fleets and route networks. The route networks from Hawaii to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego overlap, which is 4% of Alaska Airlines’ network versus 25% of Hawaiian Airlines’ network.
The Boeing 717s in Hawaiian Airlines’ care may also persevere for five years or more. The 717 is “very durable,” in the words of Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram, according to Airways Magazine on December 16.
Photo: Philip B. Espinasse | Shutterstock
But for the regulatory approvals to occur, there must be some confidence by the US federal government in the ability of the airlines to obtain a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement. By February 13, the public should know where the Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines unions stand on the merger as the pilot’s unions and the flight attendants’ unions plan January strategy sessions. Already, Alaska Pilots Union President Will McQuillen shared on the Alaska Pilots Podcast:
“On a spreadsheet, the merger indeed makes sense. But my focus and that of your MEC and also the Hawaiian MEC goes beyond that spreadsheet. … Pilot value is what we are going to be focused on as we move through the process. And as always, as we proved in the Virgin merger, that only happens through unity, combined pilot unity.”
Overall, there is some concern among the Alaska Airlines’ pilot group – and both airlines’ flight attendants that must be addressed.
Upgrading airport lobbies
Alaska Airlines in 2023 helped in efforts to invest $2.5 billion in partnership with hub airports – not just Seattle’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but also Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage. As Alaska Airlines explained in a year-end statement,
“We’re working on getting you through the lobby and to security in 5 minutes or less. Much like mobile technology widely used to access sporting events and concerts, your phone is all you need to fly through our lobby.”
Throughout 2023, Simple Flying was able to report on these efforts, especially around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s (SEA’s) SEA Gateway Project. Current travel tips are three hours before boarding time if flying internationally and two hours before boarding time if flying domestically.
The thinking is to guarantee to get onboard despite the congestion by adding many automatic bag tag stations that operate from one’s boarding pass. As Shane Jones, Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development for Alaska Airlines, shared with Simple Flying,
“I think we’re just incredibly excited about what we’re doing to change the experience and making it more seamless, lower stress for our customers… My personal goal on this journey is get rid of lines. We don’t need ’em.”
Ultimately, for passengers, the rewards of these renovations have started to arrive with new bag drop locations at SEA and other airports. Construction, at least at SEA, will continue throughout 2024 into 2025 to complete the total renovations envisioned for Alaska Airlines.
Continuing to address America’s Schiphol: John Wayne Airport
One of the ongoing challenges for Alaska Airlines in 2024 will be continuing to serve America’s Schiphol in John Wayne Airport with its capacity cap by seats. Alaska Air Group, on the one hand, is upgauging its mainline Alaska Airlines fleet and therefore has little interest in the 737 MAX 7 and, on the other, is facing a capacity cap that forced the airline to suddenly go from 159-seat 737-800s to 124-seat 737-700s to close out 2023—one wonders if and how Alaska Airlines will prevent a repeat in 2024.
It is worth noting in fairness that John Wayne Airport has a new Alaska Air Group E175 route connecting the airport with Tucson. John Wayne Airport also serves these tourist attractions:
- Many beaches
- Disneyland Resort
- Huntington Beach’s Pacific Airshow – October 4-6, 2024
- Knott’s Berry Farm
- Shopping and dining districts.
Reconnecting smaller communities
First, Horizon Air has enough pilots to renew connections from Portland, Oregon, to Redmond, Oregon, on a seasonal basis from November 29 until April 10. Additionally, Horizon Air has increased the frequency of connections between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Eastern Washington state’s Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima, Washington, to double daily roundtrip service.
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying
Additionally, Alaska Airlines started December 14 three times daily service between Hollywood Burbank Airport and San Francisco International Airport. The route is new to Alaska Airlines and connects Southern California with Northern California.
New summer flights from Anchorage with 737 MAX 8
Summer 2024 promises to have Alaska Airlines take its new 737 MAXs between Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC) and San Diego International Airport (SAN) starting on May 18, while on June 13, the Alaska Airlines mainline starts daily connections to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The Boeing 737 MAX 8 Alaska Airlines just started receiving – of which Alaska Airlines now claims to get 20 – is more efficient than the 737-800 and is projected to serve the ANC-JFK route, among others.
A 100% SAF flight is unlikely in 2024, but sustainability efforts will continue
Simple Flying contacted Alaska Airlines, wondering if Alaska Air Group could mirror Virgin Atlantic’s 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight on November 28, 2023. Instead, Alaska Airlines said about 2024 and the carrier’s use of SAF;
“We have used SAF for over 10 years, including extensive testing when we participated in the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program in 2021. However, SAF is not at the scale or cost to realize its full potential in decarbonizing aviation, and our focus continues to be on maturing the market.”
Additionally, Alaska Airlines pledges in the sustainability space to remain focused on carbon reduction via fuel efficiency and waste reduction, such as when Alaska Air Group stopped using plastic and was the first to have onboard recycling. Finally, efforts to rehabilitate ecosystems will continue by working with the Surfrider Foundation and others to restore habitat, including critical ecosystems throughout the Pacific Northwest, California, and Hawaiʻi.
Finally, a personal note
The author will take an Alaska Airlines Milk Run on February 7 on Flight 61. Seems to be an excellent time to see how Alaska Airlines still supplies remote communities.
What are your thoughts on Alaska Airlines’ 2024? Please share in the comments.
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Anchorage International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Portland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- Year Founded:
- Ben Minicucci
- United States
- North America