By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — The union representing Allegiant Air flight attendants said Tuesday the airline is eliminating nearly half its Hawaii-based jobs.
Hawaii-based flight attendants were notified that 37 full-time positions will be reduced to 20 positions, said Transport Workers Union Local 577, which represents about 600 flight attendants working for the Las Vegas-based airline.
Hawaii flight attendants were told they can compete for open jobs in other cities and receive up to $3,000 in relocation costs, said TWU International Vice-President Thom McDaniel.
“Due to changes in our schedule, our staffing needs have changed in Honolulu,” Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in a statement. “We have less need for full-time flight attendants based in Honolulu, so we have offered a number of those flight attendants the option to relocate to other bases in our network.”
The union had been asking what will happen to Hawaii flight attendants after the airline announced in April it would cancel flights from seven U.S. mainland cities to Honolulu, effective Aug. 14, McDaniel said. Transfers will need to be completed by October, but the union said flight attendants will see a reduction in income after the Hawaii flights are cut.
“Why did they wait so long to tell us how we’ll be affected?” asked Honolulu-based flight attendant, Michael Jenkins. “It’s as if they’re saying, ‘If you don’t like it, here’s the door.’”
The no-frills, discount carrier focuses on connecting small cities with vacation destinations. The union pushed-back and claimed the airline was trying to avoid providing health benefits when Allegiant wanted to use part-time flight attendants to cover Hawaii routes.
The airline changed its mind and hired full-time flight attendants in Hawaii and allowed others to transfer from the mainland, McDaniel said.
Less than a year later, flight attendants who want to continue working for the company will have to uproot their lives. “The people who just transferred a few months ago are being asked to uproot their lives again,” McDaniel said, adding that the relocation payment will likely cover only a portion of moving to the mainland. And the ones who were already in Hawaii will have less chance to remain because they have the least seniority, he said.