Southwest Airlines flight attendants claim they have reached a “breaking point” and are asking Southwest to stop using “emergency” grounds to deny benefits and increase workloads.
At Breaking Point, Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Claim To Be “Weary, Exhausted, Frustrated and Forgotten”
TWU Local 556, which represents 15,000 Southwest flight attendants, sent a letter to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly outlining a number of grievances:
Flight Attendants are weary, exhausted, frustrated and forgotten. Some of us – far too many of us – are sick. Many of us are making choices that can have grave impact to our jobs, our Customers and our Company. And all of us are trying to keep the jobs we love, keep our Customers happy, and keep our carrier in the air.
In order to remedy the grievances, the union is calling for a number of concrete steps:
- Immediately terminate Southwest’s use of “Emergency Sick Call Procedures”
- Southwest has been operating under a self-imposed state of emergency since the pandemic began, which limits the ability for flight attendants to call in sick (it is much more difficult because additional verification is required and employees face sanction for too many sick days). With staffing limited and pressure high, flight attendants feel compelled to come in even if they are feeling ill.
- Stop adding additional pairings into the system
- With flight attendants already spread too thin, unions want to see schedule reductions, not more flight added, since there are not enough flight attendants to work them.
- End extended duty days and reschedules
- Due to “operational needs” flight attendants often find their work schedule shuffled at the last minute, which causes stress, longer duty days, and may pose a safety risk when flight attendants are asked to work up to 18-hour duty days
- Improve working conditions
- The union says “no food and no rest is no way to treat the best.” It wants better hotel accommodations, food, and transportation.
- “Protect us—and help us protect ourselves”
- Flight attendants should be given the benefit of the doubt in air rage incidents (glue anyone?)
Flight attendants claim they have given much to the company and now the company should start giving back.
“The pervasive sentiment in our membership is that there is no interest in protecting the well-being of the single most customer-facing department in this company. We refuse to continue to be treated like our safety and our ability to perform our duties is an afterthought.”
Southwest has not formally responded to the note. TWU Local 556 has also launched a social media campaign with images like this:
Flight attendants argue they have been overworked during the pandemic and are spread far too thin. The union is calling for better schedules, more generous sick leave, meals, hotels, and transportation. But as Southwest Airlines warns it will not achieve profit this quarter even with federal assistance, it is unlikely we will see any big changes to the way in which the largest domestic airline in the USA is run.
image: Southwest Airlines