Southwest Airline pilots vote to authorize strike action by overwhelming margin

Southwest Airlines jet
Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock

According to their union, Southwest Airlines pilots have voted overwhelmingly to authorize strike action. 

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s (SWAPA) announced on Thursday, May 12, 2023, that the vote had closed early with 98% participation and 99% voting to authorize a strike.   

The vote was scheduled to run until May, but the swift response from almost every Southwest pilot allowed the vote to conclude early.  

The union says “operational disasters and the lack of progress after three-plus years of stagnant negotiations” are responsible for the unrest among pilots. 

“This is a historic day, not only for our pilots, but for Southwest Airlines,” said SWAPA president Casey Murray. “The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point. Our pilots are tired of apologizing to our passengers on behalf of a company that refuses to place its priorities on its internal and external customers.” 

It is understood that strikes are not imminent, with any strike action requiring permission from the federal National Mediation Board.    

“We want our passengers to understand that we do not take this path lightly and are disheartened that the LUV airline has gotten so far away from the values set forth by Herb Kelleher,” Murray added. “We want our customers to be prepared for the path ahead and make arrangements on other carriers so that their plans through the summer and fall are not disrupted.” 

Southwest Airlines experienced an operational meltdown between December 21, and December 31, 2022.  

Following harsh weather, the carrier’s processes struggled to restart, resulting in the airline canceling more than 16,700 flights over the course of 10 days. 

American Airlines pilots have also recently voted overwhelmingly for potential strike action following a ballot by the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents 15,000 of the carrier’s pilots.  

Strike authorization voting began on April 1, 2023, and ended at midnight (CT) on April 30, 2023.  

More than 96% of the APA membership participated, with more than 99% voting in favor of authorizing a strike. 

American Airlines’ pilots are looking for a new contract, plus amendments to scheduling and work practices.  

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