Southwest Airlines has apologized to its staff for the difficult summer and promised to look into schedule reductions to alleviate some of the operational pressure points. The note comes as pilots threaten to picket and flight attendants claim to be at a “breaking point.”
Southwest Airlines Apologizes To Staff, Stops Shorts Of Making Concrete Promises
In a note to staff written by Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven, an apology was apology was offered. Van de Ven noted that although the surge in bookings has been a welcome change,
“It’s also taken a toll on our operation and put a significant strain on all of you. And for that, I am sincerely sorry.”
Van de Ven added that Southwest is “continuing to evaluate our fourth quarter flight schedules, and we’re taking a serious look at flight levels to ensure that our flying aligns with the staffing needed to operate within this more complicated COVID environment.”
The move comes after an open-letter to CEO Gary Kelly from the union representing flight attendants asserting that flight attendants were at a “breaking point” and could no longer tolerate being “weary, exhausted, frustrated, and forgotten.” Among other things, the letter demanded a schedule reduction to better reflect staff shortages and reduce the last-minute duty changes and extended hours.
Meanwhile, the union representing pilot has threatened to picket at U.S. airports over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays over many of the same issues, including:
- Overburdened schedules
- Insufficient training support
- Lack of hotels and food
While Southwest stopped short of promising a schedule reduction, Van de Ven did promise to avoid “traditional staffing models” this autumn and early winter (though it is not exactly clear what that means and Southwest refused to comment for this story).
“We will not be following our traditional staffing models as we reevaluate where we are in October, November, and December. You come first.″
Southwest Airlines is averaging over 1,000 flight delays per day this week due to a schedule stretched too thin for the current workforce and a backlog in pilot training. Even though pilots, flight attendants, and other staff have put in the extra hours, it has not been enough to avoid spiraling delays which ripple across the route network. Now Southwest is apologizing to staff for the rough summer and promising to explore schedule reductions and other remedial measures to address employee grievances and avoid unnecessary cancellations and delays.
image: Southwest Airlines