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Horizon pilot shortage reduces flight schedules

Alaska Air Group's Horizon Air unit will continue flying a reduce schedule for some time, the Seattle-based company acknowledged Wednesday.

Alaska CEO Brad Tilden said regional airline pilots took jobs with legacy airlines in greater numbers than anticipated in recent months. That created a shortage of pilots for Alaska's Horizon fleet during the summer, resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations as well as dropped routes. The introduction of regional jets to Horizon's fleet didn't help.

"We've now adjusted our schedule to match pilot availability, and cancellations have dropped dramatically," Tilden said.

Horizon remains the top carrier in both flights and passenger count in Medford, where it bases some of its crews.

In an effort to improve control and cut costs, Horizon's operations center was moved to Seattle from Portland.

"We got behind hiring initially last year because we were simply not competitive from a pay standpoint," Horizon Chief Operations Officer David Campbell said. "We're now hiring 30 pilots a month, so I feel really good about that, but it's going to take us another 90 days to really catch up on the backlog of training, and moving forward, I feel very comfortable that we have a solid plan in place. It's going to work."

Despite operational challenges and intense competition, the airline posted a third-quarter net profit of $266 million, or $2.14 per share, up from $256 million, or $2.07 per share a year ago.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

An Alaska Airlines plane prepares for takeoff from the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport. [Mail Tribune file photo]