Heated dispute between Southwest Airlines and its mechanics seems to be put behind, as union members “overwhelmingly” approve a new tentative agreement after seven years of negotiations.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union which represents nearly 2,400 airline’s mechanics and related employees, voted to ratify a new tentative agreement, Southwest announced on May 21, 2019.

"Our Mechanics will receive well-deserved pay increases, and the Company will realize additional flexibilities necessary to compete in today's airline industry," Vice President of Labor Relations Russell McCrady is quoted in the company’s statement. "This new contract benefits all parties as it takes care of our People and preserves the long-term health of Southwest Airlines".

If the delay of the FAA’s authorization for Southwest’s Hawaii service launch as well as the fallout from the shocking in-flight tragedy in which a passenger was killed last year were not enough, Southwest has now been hit with another major setback. On Friday, February 15, 2019, news emerged that Southwest has declared an “operational emergency” after a significant number of aircraft were taken out of service for maintenance, leading to cancellation of flights and aggravating tensions between the company and its employees.

The ratified contract should come into effect immediate and will become amendable in April 2024. It should cover 2,400 mechanics and related employees, according to Southwest.

“[...] our more than 2,500 members have overwhelmingly approved the new tentative agreement by a vote of 94.62% and with 93.62% participation, and the new contract with Southwest Airlines will be ratified immediately,” AMFA announced on May 21, 2019. Southwest’s statement claims the contract will cover 2,400 mechanics and related employees.

The agreement includes increase in pay and benefits, protections in headcount, work-rules and work. For instance, aircraft maintenance technicians should receive an instant raise of base wage by 20%, according to the union.

Contract negotiations between Southwest and its mechanics, represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), have been going on for several years and required help by a mediator.

This year alone, negotiations, or rather the conflict between Southwest and the union, came into spotlight in February 2019. After a number of aircraft taken out of service for maintenance suddenly increased “significantly”, Southwest ended up declaring an “operational emergency” and cancelling flights.

Southwest Airlines announced it will launch an investigation into the cause of an “operational emergency” declared by the carrier last Friday, February 15, 2019, after a significant number of aircraft were taken out of service due to mechanical issues. At the heart of the matter lies Southwest’s tense negotiations with a union, which, the carrier claims, “has a history of work disruptions”.