Southwest Pilots Just Announced They Are About To Go On Strike!

One month after the company canceled thousands of flights during the holiday travel season, members of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association took the first steps toward a strike.

Southwest canceled a large number of flights even after severe winter weather had passed in the days following Christmas. In response to the holiday meltdown and the “utter lack of meaningful progress on a contract negotiation,” the company’s labor union announced that a strike authorization vote will take place on May 1.

“I think it is best to consider what our customers have been through over the past several years and the past several weeks,” Southwest Airlines Pilot Association President Captain Casey Murray said in a press release. “It was the lack of discussion or commitment by our leadership team to rectify these issues for our passengers and our pilots that drove us to make the decision to carry forward on this path afforded to us by the Railway Labor Act.”

The law, passed in 1926 as the country became more reliant on railways, allows Congress to exercise its authority over interstate commerce by preventing transportation strikes. The statute was recently used by officials to halt a rail strike.

Southwest shares fell 3.5% on Wednesday following the announcement; the company’s stock price has dropped nearly 9% since the beginning of December.

“We believe that May 1 provides a date that allows our union time to prepare and gives our customers time to book elsewhere, so that they can have confidence that their summer vacations, honeymoons, and family outings are assured,” Murray added. “It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but given the trajectory of our current leadership group, we have little faith in the stability and future of our airline.”

According to a press release from the company, negotiations between the labor union and Southwest Airlines are set to resume on January 24, with the scheduled authorization vote having no impact on operations.

Southwest canceled 16,700 flights between December 21 and December 31, according to a filing made earlier this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The number of available seat miles, a metric used in the airline industry to approximate capacity for revenue generation, was 6% lower in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019, according to the company, a 4% decrease from previous forecasts. Total losses from the fallout are expected to cost the company between $725 million and $825 million, with revenue losses ranging between $400 million and $425 million.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has urged Southwest to reimburse customers as soon as possible; in a recent letter to Southwest CEO Bob Jordan, he described the “level of disruption” experienced by passengers as “unacceptable” and warned that his agency would use “the full extent of its investigative and enforcement powers” to ensure customers are refunded. Buttigieg was chastised by Democratic lawmakers for failing to implement new airline industry rules that they had previously recommended.

 

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