Ravn cuts workforce two years after pilots unionize

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Ravn Alaska has just cut 130 jobs, about one-quarter of its workforce. The Anchorage-based regional airlines that flies between Anchorage and western Alaska towns and cities announced the layoffs to workers Friday.

The airline flies Beechcraft and DeHavilland Dash 8s. Late last year, Ravn stopped serving two of its 12 destinations — Kenai and Aniak.

The airlines had declared bankruptcy in 2020, sold off some of its aircraft, and reorganized. Its parent company is FLOAT Alaska.

Ravn is suffering from a labor shortage, competition, and inflation, it reported. But in 2022, its pilots joined a union — Airline Pilots Association. Two years later, their company is evidently struggling to stay alive.

“In late 2022, the pilots’ Negotiating Committee began preparing for negotiations and surveyed the pilot group with the goal of securing a first collective bargaining agreement. Bargaining began in early 2023 and is ongoing,” reported the pilots union.

Ravn’s CEO is Rob McKinney, also CEO of what launched as Northern Pacific Airways last summer and then changed its named last year to New Pacific Airlines. That company has also struggled. First it planned to fly to Asia through Alaska. Then it inaugurated its service from Ontario, Calif. to Las Vegas, Nevada. It appears to be operating now to Nashville, Tenn. and Reno, Nevada airports from Ontario.

Must Read Alaska sources say Ravn raised pay by about 30% in the fall of 2022 to remain competitive. But the market has been strong for pilots, that a regional airline operating turboprops is not competitive in the labor market, although turboprops used to be a stepping stone for jets. Now, it is an unnecessary diversion for the careers of many pilots.

“Apart from being home every night Ravn has nothing to attract new pilots or retain the ones it had,” a pilot said. “If (when) they cease operations, I seriously doubt that they will be replaced by a similar carrier. The Operational Overhead for a Part 121 carrier in a very seasonal market like ours makes it almost impossible to be profitable.”

Some believe that the future for aviation in Alaska is going to be newer, faster single and twin-engine turboprop aircraft like the Pilates PC-12, Cessna 408, and maybe some legacy Beech 1900’s. Ryan Air, Bering Air, ACE, and Kenai Aviation could see some tremendous market growth if they choose, sources said.

45 COMMENTS

      • I’ve run businesses and I’ve also been union. I have literally sat on both sides of the negotiating table.

        The one truism about union’s effects on a business’ profitability is that those managers/owners most lacking in talent and ability are the first ones to blame unions for their shortcomings and failures.

        Deal with unions the right way and they will be your partners in success; no one wants to kill the golden goose.

        Develop or fail to deal with an adversarial relationship with them? You’ll both fail.

        So basically. One way to flag yourself as an incompetent leader is to blame organized labor.

        Sort of like a farmer that doesn’t build irrigation lines when he knows that droughts happen. Incompetence.

    • Yes, as a retired member of two construction labor unions and a union steward for 13 years, I am always amazed when unions don’t look very far into the future to see what the results of their actions bring about. Ravn pilots unionize, company costs rise to cover the higher wage/benefits which sometimes cannot be offset by raising product cost to the consumer resulting in union jobs often lost. Unions will work to raise the wages/benefits of the workers at the expense of actual union jobs lost almost always. Competition in the “real” world tends to level things out, but in the government workplace there is no competition. In that world, union wage/benefits costs always rise until some bean counter figures out that the services that the government thinks it has a “lock” on can be contracted out at a lower usually nonunion cost. Again, union jobs lost.

      • Well said. Unions have to understand that it’s not always best to win everything they desire.

        It’s also critical to maintain a working relationship with management.

        Management needs to work with unions and vice versa. If unions close communications, sometimes management’s only perceived option is downsizing.

      • What if, per the article above, “Bargaining began in early 2023 and is ongoing,” and the union contract that hasn’t even been finalized didn’t cause the failed business model?

        What if the failed business model, horrible service, lack of customer service, and only flying planes when they are full instead of by the schedule which might save money in the short term but drives away paying customers in the long run was the reason?

  1. The ‘future’ of Aviation may also include … Pilot-Less Aircraft.
    – Totally Automated.
    – Probably More Safe // Reliable.
    – Zero Human Error.
    – No … Union // Picket Lines // Wobbling // Cry Babies.
    – Enormous Cost Savings resulting in Higher Profits – Bonuses.

    If we can successfully fly Military Drone flights, utilizing Pilots based from far away in a remote location, why not commercial flights? Maybe(?), we could even train Indian and Chinese Pilots at a fraction of the cost of American Pilots … We already do it with large Engineering Houses in very technical – complicated Industrial Process Facilities?

  2. I’m an ALPA pilot and the company I fly for continues to make record or near record profits. Most operators in Alaska that have gone out of business or filed bankruptcy in the past did not have union represented pilots. The safety and protections that it offers the pilots is immeasurable and ultimately helps keep the flying public safer.

    I’ve always been one that believed in being compensated on personal performance but there is so much more to this representation than just a paycheck. I hope others will consider that as well.

    • Thank You.
      Poor management decisions are often blamed on labor.
      I worked union & (except for a short stint w/ the Muni) all my employers did very well.
      The Muni is a clown show.

      In construction, high costs are always blamed by anti union people on expensive labor.
      If that is so, how come housing is so expensive?
      Housing is totally non union (now) shouldn’t renting/buying be less expensive?
      No it’s actually the opposite. Why? Realtors, bankers, middle men …. not labor.

      • Yes, additionally, so many contractors do not hire union labor.

        Go to a jobsite on a private contract. Ask how many actual carpenters are there and how many non-union laborers.

        Then, and you will love this, see how many people building your home were hired at the Adult Probation Office.

  3. I think that’s what HAP is doing keeping the Westmark-Anchorage closed 8.5 months of the year. Cause that’s a union Hotel property. The only employees working are Maintenance because of they are Essential after HAP had a water incident first winter closure in 2020. Unions are not friendly to Business employers.

    • My Christian, GOP, brother-in-law did VERY well working union at the Hilton.
      He was there 30 years as a bellman and owns two houses, one in Chugiak & one in Bend, Ore.

      Why should AK workers be “friendly” to a business that owns Hilton & serves outsiders (tourists)?
      Hilton ownership changed many, many times while he was there, sometimes sold then sold again 2 yrs later.

      One time it belonged to an in state Native Corp.
      Another time it belonged to a wealthy company from Saudi Arabia.
      You think AK workers should take less pay & less benefits to help these worldwide mega-investors?

      One of the best places to work a career here in ANC is the Captain Cook Hotel
      100% union built (Thank You Walter Hickle) 100% union re-modeled and 100% union(H.E.R.E.)
      H.E.R.E. covers most hotels in Vegas and has kept workers there out of poverty
      What is wrong w/ that? I think the casinos can afford it, don’t you?

      Don’t believe the hype spread by people from south of the Mason-Dixon line folks.
      They have a slave mentality for some reason I will never understand.
      Work Union, Live Better, Vote Trump.

      PS: Part of Ravn’s problems may be those Dash-8’s
      They are dogs … imo.
      you can get stuck in UNK for a week because of weather & those 8’s.
      How do you get out? Bering Air comes in a normal plane & flies you to Nome to catch a jet to ANC.

      • What’s intriguing about your pro union shill isn’t the pro union stance. It’s the not as clever as you think you are shots at republicans, Christians, and southerners. All you left out was white, straight males.

        If you want to be taken seriously as anything but a pro union shill, you need to get in front of a mirror, read something besides pro union propaganda, and practice. Then, maybe, you might -might- come off as a opinion worthy of passing consideration.

        • Your feelings and opinions become irrelevant the moment you declared anyone with a favorable opinion towards unions as a “shill.”

          I’ve been management and I’ve been union.

          The sad thing about managers who use your language, is that as aunion negotiator, you know you’ve found an owner/manager who will find his way to bankruptcy all his own.

          Otherwise, most people saying “shills” are folks who don’t have trades worth representing and are envious

        • I am not a shill. I am a worker who worked union.
          People can work non-union if they like, I don’t recommend it.
          I have SS & 3 union pensions .. 1 here .. 1 outside (when there was no work here) and 1 w/ the Muni.
          I bought a small house for cash after I had 4 kids, my wife choose not to work.
          I had enough for that house because of the split on our union benefit plans.
          Half goes to retirement check & half in a Wall St fund.
          You can take a lump sum on the Wall St $ after you are out of that program for 10 yrs. The money was put in a W St fund by the benefit program while also growing for 10 yrs
          My Christian bro in law is one of my best friends & one of the best Christians I ever met. He worked 30 years at Hilton & owns 2 houses.
          We are both Trump voting GOP & went to the rally together w/ our families.
          Why do you think I am taking shots at Christians & Republicans? Can you read?

          Yes it is true about people from the South, as a Yankee I’ll never understand it.
          But I.m not knocking them as most southerners are great people.

          Dash 8’s are losers …. imo.
          Me & my son were stuck in UNK for a week 2 winters ago.
          We got out by Bering picking us up in a 208.

          I am a white straight male ….what’s your issue really mask?

  4. Saving money on pilots isn’t much different than shopping for brain surgeons. You get what you pay for. Happy landings.

    • Exactly… I’ve been a professional pilot for 35 years. I won’t ride a (mainland) Chinese carrier, nor an Indian carrier. I’ve worked with pilots from both, seen their performance, read the reports, watched the circus and won’t risk myself or my family. I won’t ride an aircraft without at least one human pilot. You’re welcome to save $200 and give both of these a shot.

      • Sure. On a good weather day with everything working correctly and in level flight, any monkey can fly an airplane.

        Now, in order to have it take off properly, land safely and intact, and for when something, anything, even minor goes wrong mechanically or wearherwise, you have to have that professional in the cockpit.

        Flown by AI or by a tenuous connection to someone comfortably sipping slurpees 2000 miles away on the ground? Yeah, no thank you.

  5. If their business plan was to constantly be late, delay or cancel flights, not honor unused tickets after you had to book a different carrier, blame the weather for any and everything, and generally offer poor customer service then they really did a good job at that…which explains their current dilemma.

  6. Exactly how is ALPA responsible for this? Virtually every Airline is Unionized and ALPA is actually not a bad Union. Really poor piece by MRAK. At least cite some evidence.

    • Air taxi’s in rural AK do not have unionized pilots generally.
      Unionizing Ravn (basically a rural carrier) is new territory for pilot unions I believe.

      • It’s a Part 121, AKA an airline. And operating partially in the Lower 48 as noted in this article. Air taxis are Part 135.

  7. How’s the pilot’s union getting a bad rap on this one when they are still bargaining on the very first contract that isn’t even in effect yet ?

  8. RAVN sucks. Let’s be honest.

    And cutting service to Kenai was dumb. You still fly to Homer right? Then why not do that stop on the way down or back?

    Every since they put one in the drink it has just gone downhill.

    Who blames pilots for management expense failures?

    Maybe stop giving out cookies.

  9. The issue constantly overlooked in matters like these is management who sign deals with unions they know are fiscally irresponsible. If you don’t have the money, it’s not there. Wishing and hoping isn’t a business strategy.

    History has shown when management signs deals they can’t afford, often hoping to pass the cost on to the consumers, consumers tend to balk. I remember a time when Japanese cars were virtually nonexistent and the big three dominated the world. Now, Japanese cars dominate.

    • I remember when I could call you a scab.
      Oh, I still can …. Thanks Suzanne; I think you have the freest site in America now.

      PS: I have never, and will never, buy an asian car.
      President Trump would approve of my stance.

    • If it makes you feel any better, the last Toyota Tacoma I purchased had more American parts in it than that year’s Ford Ranger…and the Toyota was assembled in the USA as opposed to the Ranger being built in Mexico. So I ponied up the slightly higher price and bought the Toyota.

      Oh, and besides minor issues, I sold that Toyota with 350k miles on it after nineteen years.

      I’ve driven many Fords, MOPAR, and GM products in my lifetime, none of them could hold a candle to that Toyota for reliability. Not even close.

      • I know all of that.
        My stance is a principled one, so not smart.
        I know.
        Keep in mind those Asian cars, built in America are non-union.
        It was the Asian globalist that broke the UAW here
        I continue to drive the terrible, American made, union made vehicles as much as possible.

  10. Yet another Union hit job based on no facts. Hey isn’t that just Conservatives of today.No facts, just lies and grievances. Americas Putin party. Remember that Revenge tour all you morons talk about, yeah just wait.

  11. I stopped flying Era/Raven years ago. I’m not impressed with their record. I’ve already gone down in a small plane in Alaska. Once is more than enough 😳

  12. I flew with RAVN a couple of times but stopped when they started to remind me too much of Mark Air and I started to think that they were actually just Mark Air spelled ‘RAVN’…….

  13. RAVN added support staff for the expansion into the Asian market after leasing some mothballed Boeing 757-200’s and rebranding as North Pacific Airlines. The expansion included investing over $1 million in the TSAIA North Terminal. The business plan was destroyed when Russia invaded Ukraine and the Asian airway routes were closed. RAVN’s resources would not outlast Russia, so they retrenched to get out of the red. In the current labor market, the 130 employees will not be out of work long.

    • Hopefully not, but that was the pattern back in spring 2020, just before they shut everything down and liquidated.

  14. The labor shortage is not limited to any specific industry. Post-pandemic policies have caused significant shortages and pay increases have no effect, other than feed inflation and drive smaller businesses out. The solution doesn’t have much to do with wages and benefits when you have so much of the population unable or unwilling to work. Unemployment numbers don’t mean anything, since they don’t include those who have taken themselves out of the workforce permanently. Would like to see those numbers. Continuing to blame other causes for this shortage does nothing.

    • ^^^^^ this right here. No one willing to work means labor shortage. Higher wages fuels inflation. In the mean time Washington is still finding ways to spend future generations money, so … more inflation. In the process lining the pockets of themselves and even richer people.

      COVID was the period of the largest wealth transfer in history, and it wasn’t downward and lifting people up.

      And everyone knows you can’t talk about the economic viability of any (or every) village, and what level of subsidy is appropriate from which level of government. Airlines in Alaska survive on (some variation on) subsidies and die without them.

  15. My experience with Ravn has been almost exclusively bad.

    Every single time I’ve been scheduled to fly with them, EVERY SINGLE TIME, if their craft wasn’t over 50% filled they suddenly declared a “mechanical.” Then magically, a few hours later when the occupants of your flight and the next produced a full airplane, everyrhing is now “A-Okay.”

  16. The bias in this piece is evident in the headline. Unionization has nothing to do with Ravn’s impending failure – it was years of poor management which has finally caught up with them.

  17. There has never been a large commuter airline that is successful in Alaska over the long term, especially on the road system, because the ridership is EXTREMELY seasonal and freight is substantially lower than in the past due to lack of oil field activity on the Kenai peninsula and the greatly reduced fishing industry in the Sound. When I worked at AAI almost 50 years ago, the US Postal Service contract and Drift River Oilfield business was a HUGE part of the gross receipts for the airline. With trucks taking mail to the Peninsula every night and the huge reduction in oilfield personnel in the Inlet, I would be surprised that any airline could be profitable. Even in areas of Alaska that require air service, it is very small operations with limited destinations.

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