Alaska Airlines made headlines around the world after a flight returned to the gate earlier this week, with one pilot admitting he could not get along with his colleague. We now have a better idea of what happened.
Feuding Alaska Airlines Pilots Create Further Delay – What Really Happened?
Alaska Airlines flight AS1080, traveling from Washington (IAD) to San Francisco (SFO), retuned to the gate on Monday, July 18, 2022 after a disagreement between the two pilots occurred onboard. The flight was already delayed 90 minutes due to bad weather, but this was not a further weather delay.
Initially, we had only a handful of passenger reports that shared that one of the pilots came on the PA system and conceded the flight was returning to the gate “due to a failure to get along” with his co-pilot and that he his decision to leave the aircraft was “in the interest of safety.”
#alaska 1080 just returned to gate because the pilot and copilot couldn’t get along. Seriously. Pilot just left plane fuming after returning to gate from the tarmac. This is absolute ridiculous.
— NicaCounselor (@NicaCounselor) July 18, 2022
@tomcostellonbc this is a first for me. Alaska #1080 from IAD to SFO, already delayed due to weather, comes back to gate. Pilot says he and his first officer can’t get along… so in the interest of safety..” and then leaves the plane.
— Al Jackson (@HealthcareDC) July 18, 2022
A replacement pilot was found and the plane ultimately landed 2.5 hours behind schedule, which is not bad considering the compounded weather and personnel delay. The pilot was pulled from a later Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angeles, which also took a delay while it waited for a new pilot and also eventually landed about 2.5 hours late.
Until now, the reason for the bickering between the pilots has been a mystery. But now we have more insight.
A credible source has provided the backstory to Live and Let’s Fly:
- There were storms in the Washington, DC area
- The captain was arguing with ramp agents and gate agents to get the aircraft fueled, even though the ramp was closed
- this is standard practice during thunderstorms for the safety of ground staff
- During the taxi out, he was “barking orders” at the first officer
- At one point, the captain said, “Start #2. Get us EDCT. Get us the reroute.”
- EDCT means “Expect Departure Clearance Time”
- The first officer asked him to slow down and prioritize what he wanted done first
- The captain responded, “Just frigging do it.”
- It was the first officer who then said “we are done here” and opted to return to the gate
- But at the gate, it was the captain who told passengers that he could not get along with the first officer and stormed off
All of this sounds like a credible account to me.
The Alaska Airlines Pilots Handled This Correctly
Many passengers were quick to attack the pilots for failing to get along, but I appreciate that at least one of the pilots recognized that they could not get along and opted to step off the aircraft. Had the two been bickering and another problem broken out onboard, the results could have been bad…or even catastrophic.
It sounds to me like the captain was in a foul mood due to the delay and took it out on everyone around him, including his first officer. If true, this was unprofessional behavior. Pilots are not entitled to bad days when the safety of hundreds of lives are in their hands.
That said, the fact that he stepped off the aircraft and refused to operate the flight is a sign of maturity. It is even more noteworthy that it was him, not the first officer, who ultimately stepped off, since he was the one most agitated.
We now have a better idea of what the two Alaska Airlines pilots were feuding about, which ultimately led to the flight returning to the gate and the captain stepping off. The captain will have to answer for his conduct (and for his level of specificity in what he told passengers, which casts an unprofessional image over Alaska Airlines), but the fact that he chose to step off is a sign of wisdom, not immaturity.