Southwest pilots picket amid delays, cancellations

U.S.

(NewsNation) — “Delayed, rescheduled, cancelled” were among the grievances printed on more than 1,000 signs Tuesday in Texas as airline pilots protested for updated contracts and more stable scheduling.

The picket, organized by the Southwest Airline Pilots Association, drew about 1,300 demonstrators to the Dallas Love Field Airport.

“We have pay that’s behind, scheduling rules that are behind, even for our women our maternity leave is (a) back in 1984 rule, which is insane,” said Capt. Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

More than two years have passed since SWAPA proposed a new contract it said would “attract the next generation of aviators.”

Most of the previous contract was written in 1994, when “Southwest was little more than an upstart regional airline,” according to the association’s website. Those conditions, including scheduling expectations and pay, no longer fit pilot or passenger needs, picketers said.

“We’re tired of saying ‘I’m sorry’ on every flight,” SWAPA President Capt. Casey Murray said. “I think all of our guests are seeing where pilots aren’t in position to operate their flight. They’re taking delays, there’s cancellations at times.”

In a recent move, Southwest announced it would shut down the company’s reservation centers and customer service agents will be fully remote starting Sept. 1.

The call for change comes as airlines struggle to rebound from the pandemic, which introduced a litany of new and evolving restrictions.

“How can anybody have confidence in such a shambolic, uncoordinated and knee-jerk response by governments?” International Air Travel Association Director General Willie Walsh said Monday during a report on the air travel industry. “The cost of government mismanagement was substantial. It devastated economies, disrupted supply chains, and destroyed jobs.”

American Airlines said Monday that it would stop flying to three cities in Ohio and New York in response to a pilot shortage. Global airlines are predicted to post a $10 billion loss in 2022.

Still, direct air travel employment is expected to surpass last year by 4.3% as the industry rebuilds from the pandemic-era travel decline. But with labor as the second-highest operational cost item. employment is still below the 2.93 million jobs recorded in 2019 and could stay there for some time, according to a news release from the IATA.

“The time required to recruit, train, complete security/background checks, and perform other necessary processes before staff are ‘job-ready’ is presenting a challenge for the industry in 2022,” the release stated. “In some cases, employment delays may act as a constraint on an airline’s ability to meet passenger demand.”

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