Alaska pilots enter 2016 at the halfway point of a five-year contract they ratified in 2013. The past two-plus years have seen growth in Alaska’s pilot ranks and ongoing efforts to improve the pilots’ contract and quality of life. The year ahead will bring a continued emphasis on protecting and improving the pilots’ career interests and quality of life while preparing for Contract ’18 negotiations.

Alaska’s pilots have seen their group grow from 1,472 pilots at the start of 2013 to 1,730 on Jan. 1, 2016. Some of that growth was due to the airline adding destinations in 2015—including cities in the central and eastern U.S. as well as two cities in Costa Rica. Growth and hiring are expected to continue throughout 2016, although at a slower pace than 2015.

Knowing that the company was planning for growth throughout 2015, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) and its Membership Committee worked with the airline and ALPA’s Fee-for-Departure Committee to host a pilot open house for ALPA pilots, which was held last April in Seattle, Wash.

“That event was an overwhelming success,” said Capt. Chris Notaro, the pilots’ MEC chairman, who began working to create an open house at the airline after hearing about similar United MEC events that took place in 2014. “Not only were 20 ALPA pilots offered formal job interviews—and ultimately job offers—at the end of the open house, Alaska’s hiring team also has continued to call ALPA pilots they met at that event to offer interviews, and some additional job offers as well.”

The MEC and its committees continue to look for ways to improve pilot quality of life. Just as they did throughout the previous contract, the Negotiating Committee and the company have met on several occasions since Contract ’13 was ratified. During these meetings, they attempt to resolve issues as they arise in ways that benefit the pilots and make sense to the company.

“Our goal is to work with the company throughout the duration of the contract and resolve as many issues as possible, as quickly as possible, rather than allowing them to accumulate for years until Section 6 negotiations begin,” said Capt. Paul Stuart, the pilots’ MEC Negotiating Committee chairman. “This allows pilots to see continued improvements in a more timely manner and means that we should have fewer items to discuss after openers are exchanged. We then are able to start working on our cornerstone issues—wages, work rules, job security, and benefits—earlier in the process.”

In addition to meeting with the company’s negotiating team, the MEC and Alaska’s executives also meet during the MEC’s quarterly meetings. These meetings allow the MEC and Alaska management to have frank conversations, under nondisclosure agreements, about the company’s strategic direction and issues important to improving and protecting the quality of life for Alaska pilots.

Resolving issues between Alaska pilots and management throughout the duration of the contract was a key strategy adopted in the MEC’s 2012 strategic plan and was reaffirmed when the plan was updated in 2014. Another comprehensive review and update of the strategic plan will take place this year.

In the meantime, the MEC and its committees will continue to introduce improved methods for sharing information with the pilot group. This includes a communications app for the pilots, working to update the MEC’s website, and increasing face-to-face interaction among MEC leaders, ALPA volunteers, pilots, and their families.

“We’ve been executing the plan we developed and are always working on ways to improve the lives of our pilots and their families. Those efforts have not, and will not, end,” Notaro said.

Alaska pilots - ALPA
An Alaska B-737 sits on the ramp in Kodiak, Alaska.