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Southwest Pilots Are Contemplating Picket Action

Southwest Airlines’ pilots’ union today informed its unions to prepare for the prospects of picketing over the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel season. Overall the union’s leadership is weighing its options amid crew fatigue.

The union expresses that its members have a complete “lack of support” from the airline. Photo: Getty ImagesThe pilots’ union said that Southwest is struggling with operations amid the ramp-up in travel this summer. Issues raised include the lack of hotels, food availability, coronavirus protocols, scheduling access, reroutes, and jumpseat denials.

Casey Murray, president of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), told CNBC that the pickets could happen over the busy holiday season at the end of the year. He highlighted that his group insists that management addresses its immediate operational issues and accepts the union as a partner to resolve the problems that cloud the carrier’s future.

Murray concluded that SWAPA will continue to be strategic. However, he shared that should Southwest continue its pattern, more pickets could occur in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Burbank Exteriors And Landmarks - 2020
The majority of the airline’s aircraft are currently in the air, spelling positive news when it comes to activity, but there are struggles with adapting to the changes. Photo: Getty Images

Industry struggles

Southwest isn’t alone when it comes to staff concerns. American Airlines crew unions have also raised issues about heavy scheduling and lack of support following a return of flight activity after the downturn.

Southwest would be keen to avoid picketing, especially in the peak season. Simple Flying reached out to the airline about the issues at hand. The carrier’s board notes that the company is continually engaging with pilot representatives on important matters.

“Southwest Airlines has always strived to put our people first. This summer, the airline and travel industry have seen a multitude of operational challenges as we navigate the effects of the pandemic. We routinely work with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association on a variety of matters that affect our pilots, but we also have a responsibility to consider a number of factors before implementation of suggestions.” –Bob Waltz, Southwest’s vice president of flight operations, via statement.

Southwest Boeing 737
Overcoming the challenges of the passenger downturn, Southwest’s business has been picking up as of late, with it reporting a net income of $348 million for Q2 2021. Photo: Getty Images

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Staff initiatives

Just yesterday, it was revealed that Southwest launched an initiative to bring in new employees via referral bonuses. By earning Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG) points, employees can purchase guest passes for flights, concert tickets, sporting event passes, and merchandise.

Altogether, Southwest would be determined to address the major concerns these staff members have ahead of the holiday season. Even during the harshest conditions of the pandemic last year, up to over a million passengers hitting the air during the Thanksgiving season.

What are your thoughts about the concerns raised by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association? What do you make of the notions of the pilots picketing this holiday season? Let us know what you think of the overall situation in the comment section.