We Warned PBB Readers About This: Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Vote Down Tentative Agreement


Three weeks ago I published a letter from a concerned Southwest Airlines’ pilot in PlaneBusiness Banter. This particular subscriber is one of the Southwest pilots we go to on a regular basis to get a “read” on just what the group is thinking at any given time. The substance of his letter?

He gave readers a head’s up about the fact that if the pilots’ tentative agreement passed — it was not going to be by much. That more and more pilots he was talking to were going to vote “no” as a protest vote against what the pilots now perceive as a “lack of leadership” or a “lack of direction” both at the airline — and within the union’s leadership.

Or maybe a bit of “misdirection” would be a better term.

To put it more bluntly — why should the pilots at the airline vote for a contract that was going to put even more financial pressure on the airline that has seen its operating margins erode, its costs continue to rise, and its revenues continues to slump?

You got that? In other words, the pilots at the airline were going to vote against the contract because it was too good.

Today, the final vote tally on what would have easily been the most lucrative pilot contract in the U.S. was announced.

The TA did *not* pass. But it was close. Very close.

A little less than 51% of the pilots voted against the contract.

Our last call on the contract? I still thought it would pass — but not by much.

This is a major piece of news for those of us who are airline labor/management watchers, because I’m not sure where this one goes now — but one thing is for sure. This vote was clearly a “protest” vote.

The question now is — how do both sides go back to the table and renegotiate a contract that is NOT as lucrative or financially draining on the airline?

Yes, you read that correctly. NOT as lucrative.

And how much more aggressive will the pilots’ union leadership be (or new leadership) in pressing management for better financial performance at the airline?


I said at the beginning of 2009 that Southwest Airlines was going to be the biggest newsmaker of the year — on the domestic airline front. Nothing has changed with that prediction.

And …it’s only June.