Southwest Pilots' Request to Halt Negotiations Denied

The denial significantly reduces the likelihood of a Southwest pilot strike in the near future.

A Southwest Airlines plane in the sky.
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

The National Mediation Board (NMB) denied a request this week by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) to halt contract talks with the carrier, which likely would have led to a strike.

With that, negotiations are set to resume next week in Denver, Colorado, continuing on the years-long saga to complete a contract for the Southwest pilots.

SWAPA had filed a request with NMB to be released from mediation back on June 29, after over three years in negotiations. The two groups have been in federal mediation since September 2022 and SWAPA negotiators had become “increasingly frustrated with Southwest’s lack of commitment to negotiating in earnest and the pace of productivity during this negotiation cycle,” according to a June SWAPA statement.

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As a basis for the request for release from mediation, SWAPA stated it believed “further mediation will likely not result in any additional agreements between the parties,” but NMB disagreed and ruled the negotiations must continue on Wednesday.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised," Captain Casey Murray, president of SWAPA, said in response to the decision, according to Bloomberg News. "We are further away today than the day we filed for release, which is truly the definition of an impasse.”

Pilot fatigue is the center of SWAPA’s concerns. In an open letter to Southwest Airlines in April 2022, SWAPA said: “Our primary job as Pilots is identifying and capturing errors in order to break the error chain, but our ability to do so is compromised when we are fatigued.” 

Other focus areas include compensation and quality of life provisions.

Pilot strikes are historically rare, Kiplinger previously reported. The last one occurred in 2010 at Spirit Airlines. Agencies like the National Mediation Board take pains to prevent work stoppages from disrupting the flow of interstate commerce via the airline and railway industries, with Congress also sometimes stepping in. 

Just last week, American Airlines agreed to a tentative contract deal with its pilots, matching terms set by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines pilots, according to the Associated Press. The American Airlines pilots will vote on the agreement this month. 

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Joey Solitro

Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration. 

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