Nearly 1300 Southwest Airlines pilots this week took to the streets outside the Dallas-Love airport to protest a staffing shortage coming into the brutal summer months schedule.
The union behind the protest, the Southwest Pilots Association, described the protest as “the largest display of unity in Southwest Airlines history”. According to the union, the “informal picket” was meant to draw public attention to the pilot fatigue faced by many of these captains of the sky during these months.
“Our pilots have had to address the fatigue issue with management publicly, which is something that we never want to do, but you know, have been tired and have been trying to do everything they can,” Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Pilots Association told NBC DFW.
He said that while more pilots would help, what would be even better for the current staff would be more consistent and efficient schedules for them to work on.
“We’ve seen our company not really address a lot of operational problems and this has been going on for several years.” Capt Murray said. “While we do need to hire pilots, the main problem really is the efficiency in the scheduling efficiencies we’ve seen.”
Southwest Airlines already announced that it was cutting nearly 20,000 flights from its summer schedule for 2022. This includes about 25% of flights from top vacation destinations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Florida.
The airline is also suffering from a general staffing shortage with 2,200 fewer employees than there were in 2019 despite hiring an additional 5,000 workers in 2021, according to the Dallas Morning News.
While airline employees are allowed to unionize, they are legally barred from striking so as to not disrupt travel for the entire country. That is why they have to use direct public appeals like this video released this week.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is in charge of solving major travel issues in this country like the one we are facing now. Do you think he is capable of coming up with a reasonable solution to this issue? How would you fix the flight shortage?