Labor issues loom for Alaska Airlines-Virgin America merger

(Photo by Alaska Airlines/Virgin America)

Unionized pilots at Alaska Airlines and recently acquired Virgin America pulled off a virtual barrel roll Wednesday to get management’s attention.

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The union complains that talks to combine both pilot groups under what they hope will be a more generous joint contract aren’t moving fast enough.

The Air Line Pilots Association blasted out a statement during the middle of an Alaska Air Group quarterly earnings conference call.

“It’s time for Alaska management to show that they are committed to their guiding principles and to their pilots,” part of the statement read.

CEO Brad Tilden came on the line with Wall Street analysts and media to respond.

“Things are changing in the industry,” Tilden said. “I think they’re changing at Alaska with this merger. Things are moving fast. So expectations are changing. I think people are a little more on edge. We’re showing signs of that. That’s what is going on right now.”

Tilden said one thing that hasn’t changed is the value his company places on a good working relationship with its labor unions. Tilden insisted during the earnings call that the integration of Virgin America “continues to progress well.”

The pilots’ union and Alaska Airlines resume negotiations with help of a mediator next month.

Seattle-based Alaska Air Group reported Wednesday solid earnings for the first quarter of 2017.

Profits were lower compared with the same quarter a year ago because of higher fuel prices and costs related to its merger with Virgin America.

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