Anchorage air-cargo carriers to lay off 36 pilots, workers

Companies blame economy for cutbacks, despite recent profits

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Two air-cargo carriers are laying off 36 pilots and other workers in Anchorage, citing the economic slowdown in the Lower 48 and parts of the Far East.

The layoffs affect 24 Atlas Air pilots and 12 Polar Air Cargo maintenance and operations employees who work at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the companies said.

Another 14 Atlas pilots who fly Boeing 747s out of Anchorage, but don't live in the city, are also being furloughed, said spokeswoman Vickie Foster.

"As a result of the economic downturn, we've seen a reduction in flights and that's impacting Anchorage," she said last week.

Some pilots are upset the company has resorted to layoffs after it reported a $12.8 million first-quarter profit, slightly up from the same quarter last year. The job cuts, which total 105 companywide, come at a time when the pilots' union and Atlas are trying to negotiate a contract under federal mediation.

Trans-Pacific cargo flights, which stop in Anchorage for fuel and freight sorting, are especially vulnerable to economic upheaval because so many American products are made in Asia.

The Asian Development Bank, a finance institution promoting economic and social progress in Asia, recently warned that some countries, including South Korea and Thailand, will see big drops in manufacturing because of the slowdown in the United States.

Besides cutting flights, some air freighters are hauling less cargo, pilots say.

This year, the number of cargo jets landing in Anchorage was slightly up in the quarter ending March 31 compared to the same period last year, the airport said. In all, the airport had 6,057 international cargo landings. That was up 93 from a year earlier, well below the 500 to 700 increase seen in two of the previous three years.

But the slower growth can't be blamed entirely on the economy. United Airlines no longer flies cargo jets through Anchorage, which accounted for about 100 landings a month until the company scrapped the service at the end of last year.

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