A harsh note from the union representing Southwest Airlines pilots throws down the gauntlet, blaming the meltdown on “pride” and “avarice” by management and predicting a total collapse if concrete changes are not made as a result of this month’s meltdown.
Southwest Captain, President Of SWAPA, Predicts Collapse Of Southwest Within Five Years, Laments Pride And Avarice
Captain Casey A. Murray, President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), penned the following note to Southwest pilots:
I can’t express my appreciation for the dedication and professionalism each of you has shown through this leadership vacuum and failure from the top on down at Southwest. Each communication from SWA’s “leadership” is more tone deaf than the last. And each meltdown has become worse than the last.
Pride and avarice have replaced our once vaunted culture. “Pride” in ignoring solutions that have been, and continue to be, offered to support the house of cards that our operation has become. And even though irrefutable analytics and data have been provided by SWAPA again and again, pride in their outdated processes and technology continues to drive our management. A former VP of Flight Ops once stated “SWAPA has no levers to pull here, but I can” as he dismissed solutions offered by your Union. “Avarice” as evidenced by how our management chooses to continue to reward shareholders instead of stakeholders — the very same stakeholders that the Company relies on to recover the operation during and after every meltdown.
My message from last year, Investing in the Operation lists decades of acknowledgements by management of the exact same failures that defined this meltdown.
SWAPA anticipated that operational challenges might force the Company to offer another Ops Issues MOU like last year, so we polled the membership in November to measure support. Overwhelmingly, you replied that you had no interest in an MOU that was merely a one-time buy off unless the Company included Contract 2020 scheduling efficiencies to help guard against exactly what is happening today. Our Negotiating Committee met with Labor Relations just last week and not once did the Company make an offer, despite the looming forecast. At 1600 on Christmas Eve, I received a call from Mr. Kuwitzky about bonus pay retroactive to December 22. Shortly thereafter, the Company changed their offer to retro from the 20th and forward-looking incentive pay through January 3.
SWAPA’s governance process, as the Company is well aware, requires that any agreement of the Association has to be vetted and voted on by the BOD and time is necessary for that. It is bad practice to do so in such a compressed timeframe, but in an emergency, we can if needed. Your BOD worked through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day addressing it and guiding our committees to support our Pilots. NC Chair Jody Reven has been in contact with Mr. Kuwitzky today, but unless he commits to some Contract 2020 scheduling asks to help mitigate the chaos to your QOL during potential future meltdowns in writing as part of any MOU, then I fear we can’t get there from here.
SWAPA has provided endless data over the past several years to provide solutions, so I want to frame this a different way. We all know that the Company has had its head buried in the sand when it comes to its operational processes and IT. Worst of all, through the numerous and ever-increasing meltdowns that we have endured during the last 20 months (much less the last decade) Southwest has had enough crews in place to operate the planned schedule. It’s not until SkySolver and scheduling roulette begin that the network spirals out of control. The Company’s failed solution? Hire more. Add reserves. Optimize and reassign Pilots online. We aren’t undermanned. We’re undermanaged. Even with the correct number of Pilots on any given day, the house of cards fails, and fail it does with ever-increasing frequency and severity.
Back to this past week, not only was this storm forecasted, but this meltdown was predicted.
Minneapolis and Detroit had lower temperatures, higher winds, and more precipitation, yet Delta managed their hubs with minor delays and cancellations. United had a fraction of the delays and cancellations than SWA in Denver and recovered O’Hare days before we stabilized Midway. So what is the root cause? Pride, avarice, and complete failure and responsibility of management from the very top. Southwest, the once LUV airline, placed blame on you. From your very own VP of Flight Ops who wrote “low Open Time pick up rates and increased sick usage” to the VP of Ground Ops who wrote a six-paragraph diatribe blaming his ramp staff and threatening termination in three of those six paragraphs.
At this point, I’m concerned for our airline. I’m concerned that our CEO hasn’t been in contact with your president or anyone from SWAPA during this crisis. We won’t survive another 10 years as a company if this continues, and maybe no more than five. I’m more concerned for our more junior membership who have 20, 30, or 40 years of a career left here. I’m concerned that this leadership team has been trained to fail by those who came before them. So far, they have shown a complete inability to address ANY of the failures that continue to plague our airline day-in and day-out. They can’t say that SWAPA has not offered to help nor offered solutions. We have been sounding the alarm for years. Here are just two of dozens: Normalization of Drift and An Open Letter to SWA.
At the end of the day, regardless of what those vice presidents above said, you are the last line of defense to our safety culture. You have demonstrated your professionalism and commitment to your customers and safety through enormous adversity, and it needs to be recognized and rewarded. We need to be a part of the solution to the current threat to our airline and our careers. Until that happens, I fear the final meltdown may be right around the corner.
- Southwest pilots predicted precisely this collapse
- Southwest did as well, but refused to cut a deal with pilots that may have made more pilots willing to work extra hours
- The problem is not employees. If anything, Southwest has too many employees but has failed to invest in its antiquated crew scheduling systems, which simply cannot handle a winter weather event
- Murray predicts, “We won’t survive another 10 years as a company if this continues, and maybe no more than five.”
Certainly, any effective union president will never let a crisis go to waste, but here there are more than general grievances: much of it charts very specific errors in judgment by Southwest leadership. The larger emerging takeaway from all this is that the Southwest meltdown was 100% preventable.
The Southwest captain and SWAPA President has penned a long and somber note to pilots. Per Murray, everyone at Southwest saw this meltdown coming but the leadership failed to have the vision to tackle the core problems that led to it.
image: Southwest Airlines // H/T: View From The Wing