Southwest Airlines said on Wednesday that it had finally reached a tentative agreement with flight attendants in protracted contract negotiations that have been dragging on for more than five years.
Details of the agreement between Southwest and the TWU 556 union, however, remain tightly under wraps, and even the airline’s 19,000 crew members won’t get to see the proposals until November 1.
In a short statement, the union told flight attendants that it decided to approve the tentative agreement following a meeting in Chicago earlier this week which included an economist and senior TWU advisors.
The agreement comes more than a year after the union filed for federal mediation with the airline in an attempt to break the deadlock on a number of key areas after union leader Lyn Montgomery said “repeated attempts” to engage with the airline had resulted in failure.
In recent months, flight attendants have been ramping up the pressure on Southwest Airlines to make a number of concessions, including big pay rises and significant improvements to work rules and benefits.
Flight attendants have complained of plummeting morale, and things came to a head last December when Southwest experienced a major Christmas meltdown which resulted in thousands of flights being cancelled.
The cause of the meltdown was attributed to outdated scheduling software, which meant that Southwest quickly lost track of where crew members were when bad weather started to disrupt the airline’s schedule.
The union painted itself as being on the side of passengers, saying that it had long complained about the state of Southwest’s scheduling system and other processes and that its years-long contract talks had been aimed at fixing these issues.
In a statement, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations, Adam Carlisle, said he was “glad our Flight Attendants will soon have an opportunity to vote on this agreement.”
“I’m thankful for the work from both negotiating committees throughout this process and the guidance from our National Mediation Board federal mediators,” Carlisle continued.
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.