Southwest Airlines Pilots Strike Vote

Southwest Hawaii Vacation Risk | Pilot Strike Warning + $1B Problems

We are getting emails and messages asking the same question. Should we book a Southwest Airlines Hawaii now, given several uncertainties? Our answer is below, but first, the issues that could influence your decision. Also, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our fall flights with Southwest, as you can read about in this Southwest Hawaii review. But would we jump on a Hawaii flight with them right now?

While a plan is coming into place, Southwest systems aren’t yet capable of managing massive interferences such as the big storm that hit over the holidays. That resulted in 15k flights canceled, plus untold problems with delays, mishandled baggage, and more. Unlike the aviation industry has ever seen.

Pilots’ union seek strike authority.

SWAPA, the SW Pilots union, will hold a first-ever vote to provide it the authority to call a potential strike. While such an eventuality may not be likely, it indicates the severe tension and bad feelings pilots have after being stranded by Southwest over the holiday disaster, among other things. Pilots have also been unable to reach an agreement with the airline after years of negotiations.

Union president Casey Murray said regarding seeking a strike vote authorization, “This decision is not one based on emotion, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t angry.” He also seeks “gratitude pay to compensate our Pilots who suffered through the meltdown.” The voting begins May 1.

We want to “Give our customers time to book elsewhere so that they may have confidence in their summer vacations, honeymoons, and family outings.” — SW Pilots’ Union president.

You may recall that Delta also faced a similar situation in some ways with their pilots when they authorized a strike vote last fall. A preliminary deal was subsequently reached.

Nearly $2 billion in unexpected costs complicate things.

It is estimated that the December meltdown will end up costing Southwest some $800 million. Not only that, but Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said that the company will invest an additional $1 billion to improve its infrastructure and prevent a reoccurrence of their problems. He said the company is “Currently budgeted to spend more than $1 billion of our annual operating plan on investments, upgrades, and maintenance of our IT systems.”

The highlights and action plans described by Bob Jordan in a recent email to his customers are:

  • Establish supplemental operational staffing that can quickly mobilize to support Crew recovery efforts.
  • Enhance crew engagement technology to efficiently communicate with large numbers of Crew Members during frequent schedule changes.
  • Updating and upgrading our Crew recovery system to not only solve current and future schedules but also provide the ability to optimize established schedules as we revise them during irregular operations
  • Hire a third-party global aviation consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, to complete an assessment of the event and make recommendations of additional mitigation elements for us to consider.

Should you fly to Hawaii on Southwest?

The answer depends on where you fit below:

1. Non-Loyalist: Given the current problems, non-loyalists might consider alternative airlines over the upcoming months. It will take time for Southwest to fix billion-dollar technology problems and deal with its pilots. Neither will be resolved quickly, leaving passengers vulnerable to those issues. The sad thing is this could have all been avoided had Southwest been more proactive and updated its ancient technologies earlier.

2. Loyalists: there’s no question, as they will almost always choose Southwest for many good reasons.

3. Placebound: Some cities are easier to travel from/to using Southwest because the airline is so well positioned. And that will be part of your decision.

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15 thoughts on “Southwest Hawaii Vacation Risk | Pilot Strike Warning + $1B Problems”

  1. We made reservations on SW months ago for our Maui vaca. We depart San Jose the 4th of June; a month post strike vote!!! I’m considering canceling our flights and going w Hawaiian Air now for June just in case! Comments please?

    1. I agree there’s little chance of a strike by then…that said, there are other issues with SWA that do make them less of a sure thing then HA….and of course the simple fact that the truism that your in Hawaii as soon as you board HA resonates for some while others could care less.

  2. I would be surprised if they strike however there is still the issue of the more passengers that book them the more likely they’ll add flights when they are not equipped to handle it. A little disingenuous to sell tickets that you still may not be able to honor in the event of a problem. It wasn’t just inter island that was done on a shoestring, it was the whole airline.

  3. I am going to Hawaii on June 1st-10th with my family. Are we going to have problems with the flights we booked on Southwest?

  4. Southwest had a problem like a lot of companies to do but I will always fly Southwest airlines just signed me a very faithful customer

  5. As I have said for years, why anyone would fly southwest anywhere, let alone to and from Hawaii, is beyond me. This issue goes far beyond their pilots. The treatment of their new hire employees in certain work groups is horrible and against so many labor laws. Yet management turns a blind eye to it and allows the bullying and hazing to go on. Not to mention their lack of a safety culture at that airline. Usually I don’t side with pilots, but in this case, I hope they do indeed go on strike and really stick it to that airline.

      1. For all practical purposes, labor laws are not enforced. I remember being told that exact thing by a senior manager over 30 years ago, and I’ve seen it proven time and again. How many union organizers just happen to lose their job? How many workers who complain just happen to get a task which makes their job unbearable? I could go on and on. In my own life, I once worked for an executive who prided himself on hiring people with good software ideas, getting their work, and then putting them under a harsh boss with rigid requirements so that they would quit. I’ve seen that exact technique used at several companies once I recognized it. The rich executives don’t get rich by being considerate.

    1. Mike G can you elaborate on what you mean by “lack of safety culture” at SWA? That is a fairly broad and incriminating statement. I am not a defender of SWA, we always fly Hawaiian to the islands and inter-island. In regards to safety, this general aviation pilot has no qualms about flying on Southwest.

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