Southwest Airlines have staged another protest in the middle of a high-profile employee morale-building rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center in a continuing dispute over deadlocked contract negotiations.
In a statement, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) said its members came out “in full force” during the rally to show how “displeased” they were with the lack of progress that has been made in pay talks.
“We will continue to fight for a contract worthy of the most productive pilots in the industry,” the statement from the pilot union continued following Wednesday’s rally walkout.
Southwest’s disgruntled pilots performed a similar stunt during a rally in Baltimore which was attended by airline chief executive Bob Jordan and chief operating officer Andrew Watterson.
During that protest, pilots were cheered on by their coworkers as they stood up and started to file out of the auditorium in the middle of the event. Jordan and Watterson attempted to spin the mutiny by joining in the applause for “the best pilots in the world”.
A spokesperson for the airline described the Baltimore incident as “classy”, although SWAPA made it clear on Wednesday that the protest in Las Vegas was not sanctioned by the airline.
While pilots were protesting inside the convention center, hundreds of Southwest flight attendants were picketing outside to highlight their own dispute with the airline over stalled contract talks.
Flight attendants intend to disrupt more of Southwest’s employee rallies including in Dallas, next month in an attempt to amp up the pressure on the airline’s embattled senior executives.
Both SWAPA and the TWU 556 union which represents flight attendants, have been highly critical of Southwest’s outdated crew scheduling system, which they blame for the Christmas 2022 meltdown.
Workers have warned for some time that Southwest’s IT systems were in urgent need of updating, although the airline has only now committed to upgrading its software after last year’s travel chaos cost the carrier more than $800 million.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.