Aloha Airlines management announced this weekend that it would cease all passenger operations yesterday, March 31, just 10 days after filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, the airline’s second bankruptcy in 3 years.
The announcement may in fact spell the end of 61 years of operations for Aloha Airlines and a long, rich history with ALPA. But that hasn’t deterred Aloha pilots, through their local Master Executive Council, from exploring every avenue to assist the Company continue operations by engaging in continuous negotiating efforts with management and with prospective suitors. Contrary to inaccurate news reports, local pilot leadership has urged pilots to continue to report to duty for cargo flight assignments.
Aloha pilots joined the union as pilots of Trans Pacific Airways in 1949 (the airline changed its name to Aloha in 1959). More than 300 pilots are employed by Aloha.
“Today is a sad day for our union,” says Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “Throughout our rich history together, the Aloha pilots have always displayed the highest sense of loyalty and support for this union and their company. ALPA will not only defend their contract rights vigorously and represent them in bankruptcy court, we will give everything we can to help them move forward with their lives and careers. We salute all of the past and present pilots at Aloha.”
The airline’s management blamed high fuel costs and predatory pricing practices by its competitor, namely Mesa Air Group’s go!, as the reasons for its demise. The airline reported losing more than $5 million a month recently.
The airline’s announcement comes as a surprise because management recently continued to explore strategic options including looking for larger aircraft and expanding operations to Asia. Over the past few months, Aloha pilots executed a series of Letters of Agreement in response to management’s plans.
Aloha filed first for bankruptcy in 2004, and pilots made concessions to help improve the airline’s financial position and attract new investors. The Aloha pilots agreed to a 20 percent pay cut, productivity enhancements, and a 2-year “freeze” on their pension plan. ALO pilots gave more than $12 million worth of concessions to the airline to support its previous restructuring efforts to ensure Aloha became profitable and a stable airline.
ALPA is reaching out to other airlines that have ALPA representation to discuss job placement opportunities for the pilots.
“Every airline pilot who has ever worked for a bankrupt airline or seen their carrier go out of business can empathize with the employees at Aloha,” said Capt. Eric Sampson, Chairman of the Hawaiian Airlines unit of ALPA. “It’s never their fault, but it’s always the employees who suffer most when an airline goes away. Aloha has a proud history and their people deserve better than this.”
Sampson said he would be contacting Hawaiian Airlines’ management to discuss potential ways to assist the Aloha pilot group, either through preferential interviews for future positions at Hawaiian or other means. “We will do whatever we can to help our union brothers and sisters,” he said. “Aloha and Hawaiian have been the preferred airlines for Kama’ainas [long-time islanders] for decades, and we have a special bond with them that is different from that of other airlines.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, International represents 61,000 airline pilots who fly for 43 airlines in the United States and Canada. Learn more at www.alpa.org.