Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines passengers should be stressing about canceled flights – a pilot strike is looming: Report

If a pilot strike happens, Southwest Airlines is in big trouble

A grounded Southwest Airlines airplane

Nobody wants to hear that their flight is delayed, but the worst news of all for air travelers is a sudden flight cancellation. Unfortunately, this exact scenario could play out for thousands of Southwest Airlines passengers soon. According to an exclusive report from The Street, a Southwest Airlines pilot strike may be on the horizon.

A Southwest Airlines plane in flight
Jeffry Surianto/Pexels

What’s happening with Southwest Airlines?

During the 2022 holiday season, Southwest Airlines experienced massive delays and flight cancellations caused by outdated technology to the tune that the U.S. Department of Transportation opened a probe into exactly why the chaos escalated so quickly. One major factor of the ordeal was attributed to pilot scheduling.

Now, a failure to reach an agreement on a new union contract for pilots after a whopping 3 1/2 years of ongoing negotiation, 99% of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA) has voted in favor of a strike, according to the report. Amid the ongoing pilot shortage, Southwest isn’t the only carrier to experience issues, but they are the last holdout among major U.S. carriers to agree to an updated union contract for pilots.

Pilot unions for Southwest competitors, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines have recently agreed to new deals to help ease the burden on pilots amid the ongoing shortage. These union contracts — all notably similar in nature — promise substantial raises, but according to SWAPA President Casey Murray, salary and benefits are not the main concern for Southwest pilots. In an email interview with The Street, Murray addressed the union’s top priority — scheduling and productivity.

The wing of a Southwest Airlines plane in flight

A Southwest Airlines pilot strike could significantly impact passengers.

As evidenced by the 2022 holiday season debacle, delays and cancellations caused when pilots are reassigned from one flight to another can cause major frustration for travelers. In his statement to The Street, Murray explained this in clear terms, noting that “mismanagement at the scheduling level” causing an “overwhelming number of reassignments” is a driving force behind customer delays.

“Last year our pilots lost 35,000 days off as they were involuntarily forced to work on off days. July of 2023 marked the highest number of fatigue calls in SWA history. The scheduling system MUST be corrected if SWA is to excel. Today SWA is focused on not failing through schedule reductions and preemptive cancellations and as such, can never win when the focus is not failing,” Murray wrote.

Currently in mediation to negotiate a fair contract, a statement published by The Street from Adam Carlisle, Southwest Airlines Vice President of Labor Relations, noted that the airline’s negotiations are currently “about one year” behind carriers who have recently reached agreements. “We feel confident that the mediation process will continue driving us even closer to a final agreement that rewards our Pilots and supports our business,” Carlisle told The Street.

According to reporting by The Street, the union has asked federal mediators involved in the current negotiations to release SWAPA from the negotiations so that they may legally strike. So far, that has yet to happen.

Only time will tell whether or not a strike will happen, how long it may last, and how much it might affect passengers. If you plan to fly Southwest anytime soon, be sure to keep an eye out for potential impacts as union negotiations continue.

Editors' Recommendations

Ashley Jones
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ashley is a freelance journalist with bylines across a range of online and print publications.
Why travel experts think you should expect airline tickets to get more expensive
You will likely see an increase in airline prices this summer

Amid the fallout from the Boeing 737 MAX crisis, there is a looming possibility of airline tickets becoming more expensive. Incidents like the door of an Alaskan Airlines 737 MAX detaching mid-flight have prompted Boeing to slow down the production of this aircraft.

With airlines facing potential delays in receiving their ordered Boeing planes and some carriers like United even halting orders for certain models altogether, the industry braces for a reduction in available aircraft. These delays, compounded by intensive federal investigations into Boeing’s manufacturing processes, may limit the number of planes available to American carriers. Consequently, this reduction in aircraft availability poses a risk of driving up airline prices for travelers.

Read more
How to get TSA PreCheck for free: 3 easy ways
You don't have to pay for TSA PreCheck using these methods
TSA PreCheck sign at airport.

Navigating through airports can often feel like a daunting task, especially when confronted with long security lines that seem to stretch into eternity. But what if there was a way to easily breeze through security checkpoints, avoiding the hassle of removing your shoes, belts, and laptops? Welcome to the world of TSA PreCheck, a game-changer for frequent travelers.

However, TSA PreCheck can be pricey, which leaves many people wondering how they can get this coveted privilege without breaking the bank. This is how to get TSA PreCheck for free.
Sign up for the right credit cards

Read more
The best luxury cruise lines for an extraordinary experience
Consider these luxury cruise lines for your next trip
Luxury cruise ship sailing to port on sunrise

Setting sail on a luxury cruise is a dreamy escape that promises comfort, indulgence, and adventure. If you are thinking about heading out to sea, choosing the right cruise line can make all of the difference. From extravagant amenities and world-class cuisine to personalized service and gorgeous destinations, the best luxury cruise lines redefine the notion of a vacation at sea. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, or a blend of both, these are the finest offerings of the high seas. 
The benefits of taking a luxury cruise

The difference between a luxury cruise and a regular cruise extends beyond varying price points. A regular cruise often comes with all of the standard amenities and service levels, while a luxury cruise takes the experience a step further by offering an unparalleled level of opulence and refinement. Luxury cruises often include gourmet dining experiences, unique amenities, and VIP privileges, including priority embarkation and access to exclusive events.

Read more