More than 1,300 Southwest Airlines pilots picketed at a Dallas airport Tuesday — saying that they’re overworked and understaffed by the airline company.
The protest was held at Dallas Love Field as Southwest Airlines and the pilots’ union, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, have been in the process of negotiating a new contract for two years.
The pilots held up signs that said things like “Our passengers and pilots deserve better” and “Summer of Luv: delayed, rescheduled, canceled,” in reference to an uptick in flight cancellations as the summer travel season ramps up.
Flight delays and cancellations have been rising in recent months as the airline industry faces a shortage of pilots and cannot meet the increased travel demand with COVID-19 restrictions lifting across the world.
While the whole industry is reeling from the pilot shortage, SWAPA said Southwest Airlines’ poor scheduling practices for pilots has compounded the issue.
The union said its 8,300 members have faced constant reassignments to flights and last-minute scheduling changes as the labor shortage and severe weather disruption of regular flight service. Nearly a third of pilots are being reassigned daily, SWAPA President Capt. Casey Murray said.
Ever-changing schedules, and overscheduling, have led to an uptick in pilots calling out due to fatigue, SWAPA told the Dallas Morning News.
Union leaders hope a new contract, which has been in the works since 2020, will help solve the issue.
Southwest Airlines said that it was aware of the picket line, which was made up of all off-duty pilots, Tuesday and respected its staffers’ right to protest.
“Southwest Airlines respects the rights of our employees to express their opinions, and we do not anticipate any disruption in service as a result of this single demonstration,” the company said in a statement to the Post. “For 51 years, we’ve maintained a legendary Southwest culture that honors our valued employees.”
Flight cancellations and delays are expected to continue as the summer travel increases. Many airlines have already scaled back their future flight schedules in anticipation.