Southwest Airlines issued an apology to beleaguered workers Friday that have been frustrated over mandatory overtime, a hectic schedule and unruly passengers.
Southwest Airlines chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven said in a memo to workers that operations usually start to lighten once school starts and the vacation season starts to wane, but that didn’t happen this past week. In the last two weeks, unions leaders for pilots and flight attendants issued sharp rebukes to the company demanding better working conditions.
“The rapid recovery in Customer demand was a welcome change compared to a year ago, but we have to be honest with ourselves: 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 said in the memo. “Since early June, we’ve been focused on what levers we can pull to improve our operation and support you.”
Southwest Airlines had a historically bad June, landing just 62.4% of its planes on time and canceling 3,250 flights, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report from the Department of Transportation. Some of those problems came from weather and a technical outage that crippled flights for several days, but union leaders say the company simply scheduled more flights than it was able to handle to capture the heavy demand from travelers.
TWU Local 556, which represents the company’s 15,400 flight attendants, started a “No Way, SWA” social media campaign this week. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Union has blamed the carrier for “An aggressive lack of planning.”
In the letter, Van de Ven said the company was reevaluating its flight schedule for October, November and December.
“First, we are 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,” he said.
Pilots and flight attendants have further complained that hotels and transportation haven’t been available to them and adequate food isn’t available for crew members with short breaks between flights.
Van de Ven promised more improvements which should be announced soon.
“And despite all of our efforts, we have not improved the quality of your workday enough,” Van de Ven wrote. “Each day is an effort.”
Lyn Montgomery, president of the flight attendants union, told members on social media to keep pushing because the company was listening to complaints.
Casey Murray, who leads the pilots union, said he’s still waiting for improvements.
“I would like to hear actionable items rather than apologies and ‘more to come soon,’ he said.