Alaska's Flight Attendants Add Their Voice To Chorus of Airline Industry Unrest

Alaska Airlines flight attendants authorized a strike this week as thousands of colleagues protested for a day at U.S., U.K. and Guam airports over better contracts and pay.

A map showing new routes Alaska Airlines will assume if the merger with Hawaiian Airlines is successful.
(Image credit:

Alaska Airlines flight attendants are the latest airline industry group to authorize a strike, adding to the nation's growing labor unrest as well as to the tumultuous time for the airline itself.

Some 99.48% of the flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) union, voted yes on February 13 to strike in the event that management does not agree to "significant improvements." They are seeking higher wages, improved work rules and pay for all time on the job, on the ground and in the air.

The vote was announced the same day that flight attendants from Alaska, Air Wisconsin, United, American, Southwest and other airlines picketed outside more than 30 airports in the U.S., U.K. and Guam demanding better contracts and pay. The so-called "Worldwide Day of Action" is the first time that flight attendants at 24 airlines protested in unison, AFA-CWA said. About 100,000 flight attendants are in contract negotiations, it added.

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The news comes just over a month after a door plug of a Boeing Max 9 plane detached on an Alaska flight. The incident caused the grounding of Max 9s and subsequent cancellation of hundreds of flights by Alaska and United Airlines and contributed to travel disruptions.

A flight attendant strike would certainly cause chaos at airports, and flight attendants from various airlines may be getting closer to that becoming a reality. American Airlines flight attendants voted to authorize a strike last year, but the National Mediation Board (NMB) denied their request to be released from negotiations, a move that sent them back to the negotiation table with the airline.

The Alaska flight attendant contract became amendable in December 2022, and the union filed with the NMB last September. Now that they've authorized a strike, they can request release from the NMB, leading to a 30-day "cooling off" period and strike deadline.

AFA Alaska President Jeffrey Peterson has made it clear that flight attendants are ready to fight.

"We’re out on the picket line demonstrating that we’re ready to do whatever it takes to get the contract we deserve," he said in a recent statement. "There’s no excuse: Alaska management has the money to buy another airline, they certainly have the money to invest in flight attendants. We have a simple message for management: Pay us, or CHAOS!”  The other airline he refers to is Hawaiian Air, which Alaska has made an offer to buy for $1.9 billion.

Beyond the literal meaning of "chaos," Peterson is referring to an acronym for "Creating Havoc Around Our System," a trademarked striking strategy which, according to the AFA, involved flight attendants striking without any advance warning to management or passengers. It's the tactic that Alaska's flight attendants used during their last strike in 1993.

Delta CEO urged to stay neutral

Meanwhile, a group of unions representing Delta employees, including flight attendants and ground workers, have been working to form a coalition. On February 12, a group of 140 House Democrats sent a letter to Delta CEO Ed Bastian requesting that he stay out of the negotiations. 

"Unfortunately, our constituents have informed us about Delta’s history of deploying union-busting tactics, including threatening employees with termination of their benefits, distributing anti-union literature and hosting an anti-union website," they said in the letter. "These retaliatory actions are hostile to workers’ rights, and we urge you to commit to implementing a neutrality agreement with regard to these union organizing efforts."

Given that labor unrest, the grounding of planes and unpredictable winter weather can all contribute to challenging times at the airport, it's a good idea to stay on top of the news and check your flight status in advance to avoid your own version of chaos once there.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.