Alaska Airlines said it is canceling 16 daily flights to eight cities this summer in an effort to stop a sharp rise in delays that now afflict...

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Alaska Airlines said it is canceling 16 daily flights to eight cities this summer in an effort to stop a sharp rise in delays that now afflict up to half its flights.

The cancellations, which start Sunday, amount to 3 percent of the airline’s 530 daily departures.

Alaska said about 40 to 50 percent of its flights have arrived late since starting its summer schedule June 5.

That’s about double the 23 percent of Alaska flights delayed in April, and compares with a typical industry average of about 27 percent in summer months, Alaska said.

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“It’s clearly too much and that’s why we’re taking steps today to improve our reliability,” said Gregg Saretsky, executive vice president of marketing and planning at Alaska Airlines.

Under federal rules, only flights arriving more than 15 minutes late are counted as tardy.

The delays are being caused by the large number of passengers, airline-industry bankruptcies, high fuel prices and “anxiety” among Alaska workers about potential job cuts, Saretsky said.

The company switched to non-union baggage handlers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in May, and more than 470 employees were laid off. Alaska is in talks on four other union contracts.

Alaska spokeswoman Caroline Boren said there were no plans to lay off more employees.

“The company’s goal in all the active union negotiations is to reach agreements that are in the best interest of both the company and employees,” she said.

Alaska said the switch to non-union ramp workers in Seattle is a minor factor in delays because Seattle handles about a quarter of Alaska’s daily flights.

The canceled flights run between Seattle and Anchorage, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami. They also include flights from Los Angeles and Phoenix to Anchorage.

Customers holding tickets on canceled flights will be moved to other departures on the same days. The airline doesn’t foresee overbooking problems since its flights, on average, are less than 80 percent full, Saretsky said.

Starting Monday, Alaska and travel agents will call customers to provide new departure times. Customers can request other times as well.

Most flight cancellations last through early September and apply to flights added for the busy summer season. The exception is the flight to Miami, a year-round service canceled through Oct. 29.

Alaska had planned on having 530 daily departures during the summer, up from 475 in the spring. But cutting 16 departures, or about 3 percent of the total, leaves 514 daily departures for the summer season.

Saretsky said the cancellations will have no financial impact, in part because customers move to other flights, making those flights fuller.

The airline also hopes to avoid delays. “If we didn’t make the schedule adjustments to improve our reliability, you would expect our performance to be about the same” in the summer as in recent days, he said.

Alwyn Scott: 206-464-3329 or