Southwest Pilots May Vote On New Contract


Negotiators for Southwest’s pilots’ union say they reached a tentative deal to end protracted negotiations with the country’s fourth-largest carrier. Reuters is reporting the agreement in principle was reached on Tuesday and must now be reviewed by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association board before it’s sent to the 10,000 members. The union board will meet Wednesday to decide whether to present it to the membership.

The negotiations have been going on for three years, including 14 months of federal mediation. Details of the proposed deal have not been released, but it’s likely to include hefty pay increases and improvements in working conditions. The three largest carriers, American, United and Delta, have all recently settled with their pilots with pay increases from 30 to 50 percent. SWAPA says the stalled talks have prompted hundreds of its members to join the other airlines.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Unions are a relic of the Marxist past. If a pilot doesn’t like his employer, he should leave and find one better suited. Or start his own business.

    • I have always said that management gets the union (or not) that they deserve. If the employees are well respected and taken care of then unions are not necessary. As a retired airline captain and union member for 42 years I have to say that I was always a middle of the road member by necessity. I supported my company and wanted the best for it because if it was successful the chances are that I could be successful. I hated negotiation times and always made my voice heard loud and clear that one must be careful about killing the goose laying the golden eggs. As far as unions being a Marxist relic of the past, I will only say this, they aren’t going away anytime soon. In most cases unions are a necessary evil that keeps management accountable. And I also must say that pilot contracts with their duty time and work rules allows the flying public a much greater degree of safety than the FAA could ever accomplish. The FAA is the lowest common denominator when it comes to safety.

    • Reality check Kent. Start her own business? Unions exist when you hose your people. We ran non-union shops is Michigan for many years by leading an managing our employees as we wished to be.

      They are not part of the past, unfortunately so

  2. Unions are not a relic of whenever your „Marxist Past“ may have been. They are an answer to the disparity in economical power between employers and single employees. When unions are strong „the working class“ gets a higher share of corporate profits and as they usually spend a higher percentage of their income than rich people this results in more income for shops and services. (After all, you may be able to eat a bit more expensive stuff when you’re rich but you won’t eat more than three to four meals per day whereas for „working people“ a decent income may make the difference between going to a restaurant or eating at home.) The „golden 50‘s and 60‘s the diminishingly far right is so desperately trying to get back was actually a time when union membership and union benefits were at their peak.

    • I won’t disagree with the majority of your comments – but feel it’s important to point out that the “Golden 50s-60s” – when the US economy and Unions thrived – was a direct result of WWII when much of the world’s industrial production (and cities) were in ruins. America thrived in that era because the world was forced to rely on us for much of what it needed to rebuild. Just wanted to add some important perspective.

  3. To find out about the difference unions made for airline pilots, read the history of ALPA. There‘s no way individual pilots without a union would enjoy the average pay they have now. Without seniority there‘s always another pilot to replace you if you ask for more.

    • Don’t leave out the part about how safety was vastly improved, airlines routinely sacked pilots for refusing to operate unsafely…

  4. In the “marxist past” we had the Carnegies the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts and Morgans. Workers could either work for peanuts or starve. The robber barons were making mountains of cash while workers lived in tenements. Why would we want to go back to those times? Are unionized corporations going out of business? GM, Ford, American, Delta etc are currently very profitable even after paying good wages to their employees. In Sweden almost everyone belongs to a union. The country enjoys a high standard of living.

  5. One more opinion:
    1. It never seems to be a big news story when unions work WITH management to help save a mismanaged corporation, correct safety issues, or help lobby for legislation favorable to the particular industry.
    2. You never hear about upper management’s unions. I’m referring to the law firms (and others) that do the negotiating for candidates for high-level corporate positions. Do you think these people do their own negotiating? They are very good at negotiating benefit packages that are not just good, they are insanely profitable. Example: a failed CEO, who drove a great company into bankruptcy, is fired by the Board of Directors and leaves with a $13 million negotiated “severance package.”
    3. Corporate boards are often incestuous institutions where people serve on each others’ boards and basically rubber stamp every stupid idea.
    4. The alternative to unions is either corporations that value their employees and recognize their roles in the success of the corporation, or a return to the industrial revolution days with no regard to to the safety and well-being of the “workers.”
    5. Modern unions have little in common with the corrupt and violent groups of the past.
    6. I’ve always hated and opposed “informational picketing,” not connected to a work action. Who are are you trying to convince of what?

  6. Rumors I’m hearing is it is a not going to make it to a vote unless they’re just to tired to keep fighting.
    Delta + 1% but wrong iron.
    Company can’t implement the tech in a reasonable time.
    It’s not a 5 year contract, more like 1 year. Retro to 2020+5 = 2025.
    They’ll keep voting with their feet as long as Delta is hiring.