A Boeing 737-990 operated by Alaska Airlines will take off from JFK Airport on August 24, 2019 in the Queens district of New York City.
Bruce Bennett | Getty Images
Alaska Airlines is offering flight attendants double pay to pick up extra travel this spring in hopes of avoiding staff shortages ahead of an even bigger jump in travel demand in the coming months.
Airlines rolled out incentives such as bonuses and up to triple pay for pilots and stewardesses late last year to stem staff shortages during busy year-end holidays, but a wave of Covid omicron infections still set crew members aside, contributing thousands of flight cancellations.
Alaska’s offer shows that the airline is willing to pay crews more to avoid flight disruptions from staff shortages, a problem that can quickly spread through an airline’s network.
“Like many other airlines, we face general staffing challenges,” Alaska said in a statement. “In response, we are offering stewardesses to pay incentives to fill gaps in staffing for a short period this spring.”
The airline has recently hired and trained 165 new flight attendants and plans to bring 700 more on board in June. It had more than 5,500 stewardesses by the end of 2021. Alaska is the fifth largest U.S. carrier with more than 120 destinations in North America and hubs on the west coast and in Alaska.
The Seattle-based airline approached the flight attendants’ union about the incentive pay, according to a note to cabin crew sent Friday.
American Airlines, which aims to hire about 18,000 people this year, and Southwest Airlines, which has targeted 8,000 new employees by 2022, said they do not currently offer similar incentives as Alaskas.
Airline executives said last week that travel demand has returned faster than expected. In February, bookings and sales exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time, according to Adobe data, and airport security screenings this week hit the highest since Thanksgiving.
They said they expect this trend will help offset a sharp rise in fuel prices this year, although some airlines, including Alaska, have trimmed their schedules in response to the higher costs. However, the airline said it expects to be back to pre-Covid capacity this summer.
Alaska executives will outline their plans for the coming year at an investor day on Thursday.