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Southwest pilots protest workloads and scheduling mismanagement

The airline cut 20,000 flights from its summer schedule

Southwest Airlines planes at gate
Photo (c) Steve Proehl - Getty Images
Upwards of 1,300 Southwest Airlines pilots who say they are fed up with being overworked and understaffed have taken to the picket line at Love Field in Dallas. The protest is the latest volley between Southwest and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA). The union and the airline have been locked in a two-year struggle to forge a new contract.

Among the reasons why its members are picketing Southwest, SWAPA officials say the number of days that pilots have lost to schedule mismanagement in the last year has eclipsed 20,000. Union officials also say there have been 164,084 days over the last 12 months that SWAPA pilots have voluntarily flown to get SWA passengers to their destinations. 

“We’re aware that some off-duty pilots are participating in informational picketing today,” Southwest said in a statement. “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.”

What this means for Southwest passengers

The fact that the picketing was “informational” should give Southwest passengers a huge sigh of relief since it may not have a huge impact on flights. However, conditions aren't exactly ideal for travelers right now.

A wave of flight cancellations hit the U.S. unexpectedly over the weekend, bringing some trepidation for the rest of the summer with it. Pilot shortages have been pegged as the number one reason why airlines have canceled thousands of flights for the summer season.

Although Southwest has canceled 20,000 flights for the summer flying season, an analysis of data from FlightAware shows that it only had six flight cancellations on Tuesday and two on Wednesday. It currently has no cancellations slated for Thursday or Friday. 

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