Alaska-Hawaiian Announce Merger: What Flight Attendants Need to Know

Alaska-Hawaiian Announce Merger: What Flight Attendants Need to Know

December 3, 2023 - Today, Alaska Air Group (AAG) management has announced its intent to acquire Hawaiian Airlines. The merger plan is to respect and continue both unique and well established brands, while maintaining the unique identity of both brands.

We know that everyone has questions and concerns about the proposed merger of Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. Mergers take time. Nothing will happen overnight. But right now we must stick together because the airlines are very clear about how this will benefit shareholders, consumers, and employees but together we can claim clarity in black and white for our jobs and the improvements we can expect. 

Our union of Flight Attendants, AFA-CWA, represents cabin crew at both carriers. Our first priority is to determine whether we support this merger, depending upon what it means in improvements for Flight Attendants. We are gathering information, reviewing the proposed merger, and AFA leaders from both Hawaiian and Alaska will meet with our International Officers and experts to conduct this review. Our union has significant experience in mergers and all of that will benefit us now.

At this point only the merger proposal has been announced - there are several approvals required before it can move forward. Today, we continue to fly as though nothing has changed. In fact, negotiations for Alaska Flight Attendants are continuing and top priority for our union. We will continue to push our careers forward and improvements for Flight Attendants are a central component to our review of support or opposition to a merger. 

AFA leadership at both carriers have been in contact with each other and AFA International is coordinating our constitutional protections to ensure Flight Attendant rights and interests are protected. This ensures seniority protections for every flight Attendant and provides a clear process for merger review, required demands of management, and continued representation for all Flight Attendants while working with the power of a united Flight Attendant group to protect our interests. 

Please review the Merger section of the Alaska AFA Contract and the Hawaiian AFA Contract and the AFA-CWA Constitution & Bylaws, Section X. 

The merger plan is to respect and continue both unique and well established brands. Perhaps no two current airlines are more connected to their communities. Although the practical details have not been worked out, there seems to be a serious commitment to preserving the brands that are so emblematic of their legacy in their respective regions - with names representing the 49th and 50th states.

And let’s be clear, Flight Attendants have been the face of these airlines and delivered for decades the unique qualities that make these airlines special. That has come from the frontline and any future initiatives will require our support. And that requires satisfying all of the concerns of our union and tangible agreements that affirm the protections and benefits for Flight Attendants.

There will be a lot of questions as we move forward and we will work to answer all of them. Avoid feeding into rumor mills that are counterproductive to ensuring everyone has the most accurate and up to date information so we can act with one voice for the benefit of our futures. AFA will work hard to update you with the latest information. You can count on correct information through your AFA communications.

This merger, if it happens, will not happen tomorrow, next week or next month. As the process progresses, we will keep you closely updated and involved. We’ve compiled a list of common questions after an announcement of a merger for your review now, but we know there will be more. .

We are Stronger Together and Better Together. Wear your AFA pin, stay calm and fly on!

In Solidarity, 

AFA Alaska and Hawaiian Master Executive Council and AFA International

AFA Merger Q & As - If the merger moves forward.

Q: What is the Timeline for a Corporate Merger?

A: The Department of Justice (DOJ) must approve the merger and determine that it does not violate any antitrust laws or regulations. Only after the DOJ gives its approval to the transaction, can the actual conclusion of the financial transaction (corporate merger) happen. There is no set timeline for the DOJ review and approval.

Q: When would the operations of the two carriers be merged?

A: It will be a while, at a minimum 12-18 months. This is a journey of a thousand steps. Throughout it all, your AFA leadership will be representing your best interests and negotiating for the best outcome for Flight Attendants.

Q: What exactly is “integration” and when would it happen?

A: It is important to understand that “integration” applies to many steps along way to completely combining the two carriers:

  • Integration of corporate management and departments (Labor Relations, Legal, Finance, etc) is one aspect of integration and could possibly happen quickly after DOJ approval and the financial close of the corporate merger.
  • Operational Integration of policies, maintenance procedures and manuals, etc. leading up to a Single Operating Certificate takes over a year and longer.
  • Seniority list integration – we will conduct our bidding “date of hire” seniority integration process with Flight Attendant representatives from each airline, but management will not receive the completed list until a merged contract is ratified. 
  • Contract Integration – negotiating the Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) and finalizing a process agreement which allows for a smooth and orderly combining of the two labor groups (eg. Alaska Flight Attendants and Hawaiian Flight Attendants) requires Flight Attendant ratification - and this step can only take shape alongside the operational integration.
  • Operational Integration, including combined reservations and scheduling. Again, this will take time, likely a couple years if the merger moves forward.  

Q: What bases would open and close at the combined carrier?

A: The airlines have stated all bases will remain open and contractual protections will protect base assignments.   

Q: How would the seniority lists be combined?

A. A Seniority Merger Integration Committee (SMIC) with Flight Attendant representatives from both carriers will be established and representatives may only be chosen by Flight Attendants from each respective pre-merger airline. The SMIC will review the records of every Flight Attendant and ensure no one leap frogs another Flight Attendant on each respective list, while also assessing whether adjustments of bidding seniority dates should reflect time in training consistently for both groups. This process is transparent and includes a verification period with the opportunity for each individual Flight Attendant to review their seniority date before the list is final.

Q: What is the AFA merger policy that will govern how the Flight Attendant groups are integrated?

A: The AFA Merger Policy can be found in the AFA International Constitution and Bylaws, Section X. AFA has vast experience with mergers and negotiating agreements that protect our members and keep Flight Attendant interests front and center.  

Q: Will negotiations continue for our own Alaska Flight Attendant Contract?

A: Yes. We are continuing with the Alaska contract negotiations. Improvements are needed now and will help raise standards for Flight Attendants on the industry whether this merger is approved or not. 

Q: How would the merged contract be negotiated?

A: Under the AFA Constitution & Bylaws, a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) will be formed following Single Carrier Determination by the NMB. Flight Attendants from both airlines will be members of the JNC, and JNC may only be chosen by Flight Attendants from their respective pre-merger airlines. The JNC will negotiate a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCBA) attempting to combine the best from each Flight Attendant Contract in addition to other improvements. The tentative JCBA will be voted on by all Flight Attendants at the merged airline and must receive a majority vote in favor by the combined group for ratification. 

Q: When would the Flight Attendant Groups be combined?

A: The Flight Attendant groups cannot be combined until the JCBA is ratified and the seniority list is merged and accepted. In addition, combining carriers includes FAA oversight of safety policies and procedures - leading to the Single Operating Certificate. Flight Attendants will take part in “differences training” to ensure certification is the same on each aircraft. The company will also need the ability to schedule crew with a combined system.

The expanded flying opportunities and route network typically provides more choice for Flight Attendants in bidding and managing our schedules. 

A: Some call it a merger, others call it an acquisition. Does it matter?

A: An acquisition is a technical finance term about the financial transaction between the two airlines. No matter what the technical financial transaction is called — the two companies must be merged together. The merger begins once the financial transaction is approved. Nothing changes for Alaska Flight Attendants or Hawaiian Flight Attendants until the airlines are in merger mode. That’s why we don’t refer to the financial transaction, because it doesn’t change your contract or your legal rights during the actual merger. When and if we get to an “approved deal” involving these airlines, that is when the merger starts and that is what it is called no matter how management initiated the deal. 

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