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Airline Again Cancels Flights

April 30, 1999

SEATTLE (AP) _ Suspciously slow repair work prompted Alaska Airlines to cancel flights for a sixth straight day today.

More than 200 flights have been canceled since Sunday, as the airline blamed an illegal slowdown by its mechanics’ union for delays in repair and maintenance.

Friday afternoon, it appeared the problem was being resolved.

``It looks like the slowdown is starting to speed up,″ said airline spokesman Jack Evans.

Union officials said in a letter that ``they neither orchestrated nor were aware of any illegal job action.″ The letter from the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association’s Local 14 in Seattle said leadership ``does not condone nor do we support a work slowdown of any kind.″

The repair problems mark the second time in two weeks that Alaska Airlines’ labor force has stalled operations. The carrier schedules about 500 departures daily.

On April 16, Alaska canceled 28 flights after 175 ticket agents and baggage handlers called in sick. The International Association of Machinists, which represents those workers, said there was no organized job action. Some workers have been suspended pending investigation, Evans said.

All the airline’s unions are negotiating updated contracts except its pilots, whose most recent package was signed in 1997.

So far, passengers affected by the repair-related cancellations have been given seats on other flights, though they’ve been delayed an average of 1 1/2 to two hours. Alaska also is consolidating some flights to ensure travelers reach their destinations, Evans said.

Cancellations are running at five to 10 times the typical rate, the carrier says.

Alaska Airlines ``is exploring every option available to protect it and the traveling public, up to and including disciplinary action and the court system,″ the company said in a news release.

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