Thanks, Mom and Dad.
A pilot and flight attendant employed by Alaska Airlines retired early in hopes of protecting their children’s jobs with the carrier, as airlines reduce staff sizes due to a decreased demand for travel as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
On Monday, Capt. Lee Erickson flew his final Alaska flight, exiting the aircraft hand-in-hand with wife, Brenda, who is a flight attendant. The couple met on a red-eye in 1985 and left Alaska together after 36 years of service, the carrier explained in a blog post.
The parents returned their wings early in hopes of protecting their kids' careers with the airline; daughter Sidney is a flight attendant, son Kalin is a first officer and youngest son Keaton is a former Alaska intern who is finishing flight school.
“Alaska has provided us with careers filled with life-long memories,” Lee said in the statement. “Now, I hope it does the same for our two kids and their peers. Leaving gives them a better chance.”
According to the airline, 4,468 employees have taken voluntary leaves or other furloughs since March, while another 720 have volunteered for early retirements or other outs as the coronavirus has devastated the commercial aviation industry at large.
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Though the future remains uncertain, the couple’s children are grateful for the sacrifice their parents – and many other employees – have made for the sake of the airline.
“My mom has always said what a privilege it is that every day when you get to work you have the ability to make someone’s life better by making their day better,” Sidney said. “And my dad always said to give your colleagues your respect and always be kind. They will repay you in the same currency.”
Looking ahead to the next adventure, Lee and Brenda plan to hop into their motorhome and travel across the country to visit national parks.
“It’ll be a change for sure,” Brenda said, acknowledging that their hearts will remain in the high skies with their kids – and Alaska.
For Monday’s final flight from Dallas to Seattle, Lee piloted with Kalin by his side as first officer.
"It's a little surreal," the proud dad told ABC News. "It seems like I was just pushing him on the tricycle and now I'm calling to him for the before-start check.”
“Having him there for that last flight – it is like handing over the baton."