Alaska Air flight attendants authorize strike for first time in over 30 years

The strike authorization vote by Alaska Air flight attendants comes amid ongoing negotiations and doesn't mean a strike is imminent

Unionized flight attendants at Alaska Airlines on Tuesday voted to authorize a potential strike for the first time in three decades as thousands of cabin crew across three unions picketed for higher pay outside airports in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Guam.

Out of 93.47% of Alaska Air flight attendants represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) who participated in Tuesday's vote, 99.48% voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Strike authorization votes are common tactics in negotiations between a union and the company its members work at and don’t necessarily mean that a strike is imminent or will eventually occur.

The Alaska Air flight attendants’ negotiations over a new contract come as cabin crews from two dozen other airlines including Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines.

"We agree with our flight attendants that we need a new contract, which is why we’ve been working hard to get an agreement," Alaska Airlines said in a statement to FOX Business. "We’ve been offering industry leading top-of-scale pay for months with an immediate 15% raise to the entire pay scale and additional raises every year. We’ve closed more than 50 tentative agreements — representing dozens of topics where we’ve found common ground."

THOUSANDS OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS TO HOLD PICKETS AMID CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

Alaska Airlines

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER aircraft on the tarmac at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, Washington, US, on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. The FAA recommended that airlines inspect Boeing 737-900ER models that use mid-aft plugs of (David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Alaska Airlines added that the company remains optimistic and noted, "With six recently closed labor deals at the company and a tentative agreement reached in January for a new contract for our technicians, we’re hopeful to do the same for our flight attendants as soon as possible."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
ALK ALASKA AIR GROUP INC. 40.98 -0.32 -0.77%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 41.04 -0.76 -1.82%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 27.84 +0.30 +1.09%

The company added that the company and its leadership have met twice in the last three weeks and are continuing to bargain and meet with a mediator. It called discussions "productive" and said the two sides reached four tentative agreements.

Alaska emphasized in its statement: "Regardless of the vote results, this does not mean our flight attendants are on strike or about to strike. Our guests and operation will not be impacted by the decision in the near term or possibly at all."

SPIRIT AIRLINES UNCERTAINTY HAS SOME PILOTS DUSTING OFF THEIR RESUMES

United Airlines pilots

Airline pilots across major carriers recently secured bumper new labor contracts, with flight attendants now looking to emulate that success. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Flight attendants are unlikely to walk off the job because of a complex labor process in the industry that makes it difficult for airline workers to strike. 

But the first Alaska strike authorization vote since 1993 reflects broad demands by labor unions for higher pay at a time when the majority of U.S. cabin crew are in contract talks, the Association of Flight Attendants said.

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Pilots across major airlines recently secured new labor deals, including bumper pay hikes and other benefit increases. However, the AFA noted that some flight attendants haven’t had a pay raise in five years.

Alaska's stock was down over 2% during Tuesday's trading and dipped a further 0.5% in after-hours trading amid a broader market sell-off following a hotter-than-expected inflation report.

Reuters contributed to this report.