More than 1,300 Southwest Airlines pilots were detained at Dulles Airport on Tuesday – saying they were overworked and understaffed by the airline.
The protest was held at Dallas Love Field as Southwest Airlines and the pilots’ union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, were in the process of negotiating a new two-year contract.
Pilots carried signs saying things like “Our passengers and pilots deserve better” and “Summer Lov: Delayed, Rescheduled, Canceled,” referring to the increase in flight cancellations as the summer travel season increases.
Flight delays and cancellations have skyrocketed in recent months as the airline industry faces a shortage of pilots and cannot meet the growing demand for travel as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted worldwide.
While the entire industry is short of pilots, SWAPA said Southwest Airlines’ poor pilot scheduling practices have exacerbated the problem.
The union said its 8,300 members have faced constant flight reassignments and last-minute scheduling changes as labor shortages and inclement weather disrupt regular flight service. Nearly a third of pilots are reassigned daily, SWAPA Chief Captain Casey Murray He said.
SWAPA said the constantly changing schedules, and over-scheduling, have led to an increase in the number of pilots calling due to fatigue. Dallas Morning News.
Union leaders hope the new contract, which has been in place since 2020, will help solve the problem.
Southwest Airlines said it was aware of the picket line, which consists of all off-duty pilots, on Tuesday and respected its employees’ right to protest.
“Southwest Airlines respects the rights of our employees to express their opinions, and we do not expect any disruption to service as a result of this single offer,” the company said in a statement to the newspaper. “For 51 years, we have maintained a legendary Southwest culture that honors our valued employees.”
Flight cancellations and delays are expected to continue as travel increases in the summer. Many airlines have already scaled back their future flight schedules in anticipation.