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Frustrations rise for Southwest Airlines pilots as summer travel resumes

On Friday, Southwest Airlines pilots joined the list of commercial aviators unhappy with labor shortages, cancellations, fatigue and unpredictable shifts.

“We’ve been under a lot of stress over the past year,” said Captain Casey A. Murray, pilot and president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

He said many pilots arrive at work scheduled to fly to a destination only to receive a late reassignment notification ordering them to fly elsewhere, and in many cases it is a longer flight, which has leads to pilots feeling tired and frustrated.

“What happens, day to day, is a wasteful use of the pilot resources they have,” Murray said, adding that there have been failures in connecting pilots to planes, sometimes due to events. weather and staff shortages. — and other times, for unknown reasons.

At least 30% of pilots are reassigned every day, Murray said. He said Southwest had about 9,600 pilots, but declined to say how many more he needed to hire to deal with the shortage.

Southwest pilots joined those from Delta Air Lines in talking about fatigue and extended hours.

On Thursday, Delta Air Lines pilots released an open letter to customers in a direct appeal to those who may be frustrated by flight delays and cancellations ahead of the summer travel season.

“We’ve been working on our days off, putting in a record amount of overtime to help get you where you’re going,” the letter reads. “At the current rate, by this fall our drivers will have worked more overtime in 2022 than in all of 2018 and 2019 combined, our busiest years yet.

Pilot unions representing United, Spirit, JetBlue, Alaska and Allegiant airlines could not be reached for comment.

Delta recently announced it was canceling around 100 daily departures from destinations in the United States and Latin America, affecting travel from July 1 through August 7.

As the summer travel season kicks into high gear, airlines are grappling with routine disruptions such as weather, flight cancellations and labor shortages.

JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines have already reduced their spring and summer travel schedules to give themselves more headroom to manage disruptions.

According to flight tracking site FlightAware, thousands of US flights have been delayed or canceled as thunderstorms rumbled travel to and from some of the country’s busiest airports.

While Southwest is short on pilots, union officials said the way current pilots are treated has also affected the airliner.

“If you keep abusing us, you’re going to keep understaffed,” Murray said, adding that he wants his employer to be the most efficient and successful airline in the industry.

Rob Wile and Leslie Josephs, CNBC contributed.

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Post expires at 3:15pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022