Allegiant Air is cutting nearly half of its flight attendant jobs at its Honolulu base following a decision by the company to convert the majority of its new Hawaii routes to seasonal service, according to the union that represents Allegiant's flight attendants.
The company has told flight attendants it will eliminate 17 positions in Honolulu, bringing the number based there to 20 from 37, says a statement from the Transport Workers Union Local 577 (TWU).
The Las Vegas-based airline could not be reached to confirm the cuts.
The news follows an April announcement by Allegiant that seven of 10 routes to Hawaii will be placed on what the airline called "temporary seasonal hiatus" beginning 14 August.
Allegiant launched service to Hawaii in June 2012 and added additional cities through February 2013, part of an expansion strategy that included the acquisition of six Boeing 757s to fly the routes.
The union says the company now recommends that Hawaii-based attendants bid to work routes from other mainland cities and will pay them $3,000 toward moving expenses.
That sum, the union says, will cover only a portion of the cost to move.
Thom McDaniel, TWU's international vice president, says Allegiant does not share information with employees and makes hasty route decisions.
"We think if you go into a market you should have done some forecasting before you ask your employees to uproot their lives," he says. "It's always up in the air with Allegiant."
Some of the company's Honolulu-based attendants moved to the islands from the mainland to work the flights, and now face the prospect of moving back after just a few months, McDaniel adds.
Others lived in Honolulu when they were hired, and now might have to move to the mainland to keep their jobs, he says.
The future of the Honolulu operation became uncertain with the April announcement of the seasonal cessation of flights between Honolulu and Boise in Idaho, Eugene in Oregon, Phoenix-Mesa in Arizona, Spokane in Washington and the California cities of Fresno, Stockton and Santa Maria.
Allegiant will reinstate weekly Boise and Spokane flights beginning in mid-December, and not cut flights from Las Vegas and Bellingham in Washington to Honolulu, or from Bellingham to Maui.
Allegiant tells Flightglobal earlier today it will make a decision later on whether to resume other routes for the 2014 spring and summer season.
Allegiant executives hinted in recent months that the flights were not meeting performance expectations, but insisted the cuts are consistent with Allegiant's business strategy and note the airline is successful because it tailors capacity to meet demand.
Announcement of the job cuts heighten tension between the company and flight attendants.
The union criticised the company's initial decision to staff Hawaii flights with part-time attendants, saying the move was an attempt by Allegiant to avoid paying health care costs.
Allegiant changed course and made the positions full-time.
Following the announcement of flight cuts, TWU took out an advertisement in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser saying: "We're sorry. Aloha can mean 'Hello' or 'Goodbye.'"
Allegiant flight attendants voted to be represented by TWU more than two years ago and the company and the union are currently in contract negotiations, according to the TWU.