More than 1,300 uniformed Southwest Airlines pilots gathered at Dallas Love Field airport on Tuesday to protest working conditions. Per Business Insider, the pilots belong to the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association, a union representing nearly 10,000 aviators. They held signs that read, "Southwest’s operation: From first to worst" and "Summer of luv: Delayed, rescheduled, cancelled." The union told local NBC 5 that it was an "informational picket," not a walkout, and the goal was to "raise awareness" over pilot fatigue. Union president Capt. Casey Murray said, "Our pilots have had to address the fatigue issue with management publicly, which is something that we never want to do."
Southwest pilots are also frustrated by stalled contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than two years. Pay, maternity leave, and a pilot shortage are key issues in those negotiations, but fatigue and stress were the primary drivers of the protest. According to the union, lack of pilots isn’t the only reason for their heavy workload. To that point, the fact that 1,300 took the day off to demonstrate did not impact the airline’s operations, which the company acknowledged in a statement, saying Southwest "respects the rights of our employees to express their opinions, and we do not anticipate any disruption in service as a result of this single demonstration."
Pilots blame an antiquated scheduling system that often forces them to make longer flights than they anticipated. Per the Dallas Morning News, pilots desperately want Southwest to upgrade its scheduling technology, which is especially feeble during storms and other disruptions. Southwest is by no means the only airline with problems over staffing and delays. Delta pilots issued an open letter last week assuring frustrated customers that they are "flying a record amount of overtime" to meet demand. Meanwhile, United and American Airlines each grounded 100 planes for lack of pilots earlier this month. (More Southwest Airlines stories.)