April 14 (UPI) — The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s board of directors on Wednesday warned the company that mismanaged scheduling and poor staffing have created issues of fatigue among its members.
In an open letter to Southwest CEO Robert Jordan and other executives with the carrier, the union said the airline has not kept up with surging transportation demands in regard to hiring and working conditions.
The pilots said the rise in fatigue issues are reflected in increased reports to both the Aviation Safety Action Program and Southwest Airlines’ Fatigue Safety Advisory Group.
“This dramatic increase in safety reports is a direct result of operational mismanagement by the company that has negatively impacted every front-line employee at Southwest Airlines as well as tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of our guests,” the union said.
“Fatigue numbers have been climbing exponentially since last summer with no meaningful attempts by management to mitigate them.”
The union said since a return to normal flying capacity in June 2021, using comparative data from 2017-2019, saw more than a 200% increase in fatigue rates.
“The situation only grew worse from there, with rates up 350% in August and September and over 600% in October,” the union said. “Management took a ‘wait and hope’ approach, but reality struck with January and February rates doubling and March hitting another staggering 330% increase.”
The union called for an end to what they called “schedule chaos” of changing schedules with staffs that are too small to handle the current flight load. The report said that pilots have worked more than 18,500 days of mandatory overtime on their days off in the past 12 months alone.
“SWAPA Pilots will continue to do everything in their power to make sure our guests reach their destinations safely, but it is incumbent upon Southwest to support them with a safe work environment and efficient scheduling processes,” the union said. “Immediate action to address Southwest’s scheduling failures is imperative.”