No Aloha Pilots Strike For Now

John Riddel
John Riddel

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Attorneys representing Aloha Airlines management and pilots faced off in bankruptcy court Friday afternoon.  A looming pilots strike was averted until at least Monday.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing current and former Aloha pilots, agreed to wait and see what happens out of this weekend's meeting between Aloha and two companies interested in buying the cargo operations.

What happens in court Monday could impact Hawaii businesses that depend on Aloha's air cargo service. ALPA, the pilots union, voted late Wednesday night in favor of a strike, which means a strike is an option if a resolution isn't reached soon.

If Aloha pilots walk off the job, a strike could shut down Aloha's air cargo service. This could disrupt mail service as well as delivery of some goods to neighbor islands. But the pilots hope to avoid a strike and settle things in court.

Love's Bakery is a big part of breakfast in Hawaii.

"We eat bread a lot," said Melanie Almazar-Utu, a Waipio resident and a mother of eight-year-old twins. "My kids like bread at a lot of their meals, so I come to Love's to get bread for them."

A pilots strike could stop Love's bread delivery to neighbor islands.

"Well, I hope they don't strike," said Almazar-Utu. "People on the outer islands, they need to get what they're used to every day as well. Lucky we're here on Oahu that we can get these items here but hopefully they'll find some kind of resolution to the situation."

A strike could also slow down mail delivery.

"Obviously it would cripple us here because of our inter-island dependency on that cargo," said Kathy Barnes, an Alewa Heights resident.

Dexter Freitas says a strike would devastate his small business.

"It would be a big impact and I'm sure most of the other small businesses also would be impacted by this," said Freitas, who owns a business in Kalihi.

In bankruptcy court Friday afternoon, Judge Lloyd King heard testimony from lawyers representing Aloha and the pilots union. At issue is the pilots' bargaining contract.

"We will continue to exhaust all of the resources we have made available to us to get the company to come to the table and to honor their contract with us," said John Riddel, an executive board member with ALPA, the union representing Aloha pilots.

The pilots hope the dispute can be settled in court to avoid going forward with a strike.

"We haven't even gotten a chance to talk about that yet, to discuss that amongst ourselves and the attorneys right now," said Riddel. "We're giving Judge King a chance to come back from his vacation -- I'm sure it was a well deserved vacation -- and to look at what's transpired since he's been gone and hopefully bring some resolution to this conflict here in his bankruptcy arena."

Riddel says the union has only one wish.

"It's simple," he said. "We hope Judge King orders the company to acknowledge and adhere our collective bargaining agreement."

The post office is researching different options for delivering mail to neighbor islands, and folks at Love's Bakery says they're optimistic a strike will be avoided and a compromise can be reached.

Lawyers representing Aloha and Aloha pilots will reconvene at bankruptcy court Monday afternoon at 2 pm.  Aloha is expected to discuss the status of talks with the two companies interested in buying its cargo operation.