The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) says the airline has to address a growing fatigue problem in its membership, but the airline says it follows crew rest regulations to the letter. “Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat,” SWAPA told airline executives in an open letter this week. The union executive said in the letter that pilots are filing steadily increasing numbers of Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) reports blaming fatigue for errors they make and the union says it’s the “direct result of operational mismanagement by the company.” It says changing pilot schedules is now the norm rather than the exception and issues with hotel bookings and tight scheduling are compounding the problems.
The airline denies it’s as big a mess as the pilots claim and the increase in fatigue complaints are a natural result of a challenging couple of months weatherwise. “The increase is expected, as it’s common to experience an elevated level of fatigue calls during irregular operations and in March, the industry faced weather and airspace delays that resulted in disruptions across the network,” Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King wrote in a statement to CNN. “The March increase in Pilot fatigue calls is a result of the system working as designed, allowing Crew to determine if they are too fatigued to fly.”