Nearly 1,300 Southwest Airline pilots gathered outside the Dallas Love Field airport on Tuesday to protest ongoing staff shortages as travel chaos continued on the first official day of summer – with more than 200 flights across the United States canceled.
The Southwest Pilots Association called for better treatment of its pilots at the protest, which it called ‘the largest display of unity in Southwest Airlines history.’
It described the demonstration in Dallas, Texas an ‘informational picket’ in an effort to raise awareness of pilot fatigue, stress caused by an ongoing pilot shortage – which it says is to blame for massive delays and cancelations.
‘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 the main problem is issues with scheduling pilots on connecting flights.
‘We’ve seen our company not really address a lot of operational problems,’ Murray said. ‘And this has been going on for several years.
‘While we do need to hire pilots, the main problem really is the efficiency in the scheduling efficiencies we’ve seen.’
In April, Southwest Airlines announced that it was cutting nearly 20,000 flights from its summer schedule, including about a quarter of flights from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Florida.
The airline had 2,200 fewer employees than there were three years earlier – even though the company had hired an additional 5,000 workers in 2021, according to the Dallas Morning News.
And of those who were working, a large number of pilots are canceling their shifts due to fatigue, and blaming it on erratic schedules from delays and cancelations.
None of the pilots at the demonstration on Tuesday were scheduled to work, though, as it is against union rules to call in sick to attend a protest, and Southwest Airlines said in a statement to NBC DFW that it ‘does not anticipate any disruption in service as a result of this single demonstration.
‘Southwest Airlines respects the rights of our employees to express their opinions,’ the company noted, adding: ‘For 51 years, we’ve maintained a legendary Southwest culture that honors our valued employees.’
Still, there were more than 200 cancelations canceled on Tuesday amid staff shortages, record-high inflation and rising gas prices, with over 1,000 flights delayed within, entering or departing the United States.
That followed a weekend that saw over 14,000 flights canceled – leaving thousands of people str…