SEATTLE - Alaska Airlines is cutting nearly 900 jobs - including 24 in Juneau - as part of efforts to become more competitive against low-cost carriers and save up to $35 million per year.
The nation's ninth-largest carrier, which employs more than 11,000, said last month that it was cutting up to 150 management positions. On Thursday, it announced plans to shed another 750 jobs.
The cuts mark the airline's first major layoffs since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They include closure of Alaska's Oakland, Calif., maintenance facility. In Juneau, the cuts will include closure of the downtown ticket office and its two jobs sometime next year.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Bill Ayer said the moves were prompted by a number of factors in addition to increasing competitive threats from low-cost airlines, including high fuel prices and customer demand for cheap tickets.
"The environment itself is very, very harsh," he said.
Alaska has the fourth-highest costs of any U.S airline, and Ayer said those costs need to come down if the company is to survive.
Airline spokesman Sam Sperry told the Juneau Empire that 151 of the layoffs are in Alaska, mostly in Anchorage. Of the 24 layoffs in Juneau, Sperry said 12 are effective immediately: 10 aircraft maintenance technicians, one ground equipment technician and one facilities technician handling such things as plumbing and electrical work. Twelve airplane cleaners will lose their jobs Dec. 5, followed by the two ticket agents next year, he said.
The cuts include 340 jobs at the Oakland maintenance base that closed Thursday. From now on, the company said all heavy maintenance work on aircraft will be done by Goodrich Aviation Technical Services in Everett, Wash., and AAR Aircraft Services in Oklahoma City.
The company also will close some facilities maintenance and ground support operations, resulting in another 60 of the job cuts. It is cutting 273 jobs so it can begin using outside companies to clean airplanes between flights in the cities where they are cut.
Alaska said it plans to find ways for employees at Alaska Airlines and its sister airline, Horizon Air, to share more work, resulting in some of the Alaska Airlines cuts.
Horizon also will cut about 30 of its 3,400 jobs as part of that move.
Alaska Airlines will farm out some customer service work in the state of Alaska and close additional ticket offices in Anchorage and Bellevue, Wash., among other changes.
Ayer said the company does not yet know how much the layoffs will cost, or when it might have to take a charge for the changes. He also couldn't say whether more layoffs might be ahead.
But in a memo to employees, Ayer wrote that the changes were necessary to prevent even worse problems down the road.
"The airline industry is full of examples of inaction, with an eventual devastating toll on huge numbers of employees," he wrote. "We must make changes now to avoid those types of drastic actions later."
Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, based in Seattle. The two airlines serve more than 80 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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