Furloughed ALA Pilots Return to Service

For Alaska Airlines’ pilots, this week marked the end of a period during which 106 of their colleagues were furloughed. The final five involuntarily furloughed Alaska pilots returned to active service Tuesday after spending nearly three years on furlough. The number would have been six, but one pilot who would have returned with this class elected to resign.

“I couldn’t have been happier to welcome back our furloughed pilots than I was this week,” said Alaska MEC chairman F/O Paul Stuart. “As a pilot group, we will not forget the challenges that our furloughed pilots faced. Nor will we forget the way in which this pilot group came together to help one another.”

When Alaska announced plans to furlough pilots, the Alaska MEC and Negotiating Committee worked to negotiate programs to mitigate furloughs. Those efforts produced programs that allowed active pilots to commit to flying reduced schedules and reduced the overall number of furloughs as a result. The pilot group voted to assess itself to cover the costs of health insurance premiums for furloughed pilots. Over the past three years, that assessment paid $585,000 in health-care premiums; the money remaining in that fund will undergo an independent audit and will be paid back to the pilots who contributed to it.

During the holidays, individual pilots stepped up again to create and run the Furloughed Pilots Christmas Fund, which distributed money to furloughed pilots and their families in December 2009 and December 2010. This year, there will be no need to create such a fund.

In December, Alaska Airlines will welcome its first class of new hires since January 2008. And throughout next year, pilots who were furloughed but who elected to bypass recall to complete employment contracts will return.