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News / Business

Southwest Airlines pilots approve new contract with 29% immediate raises

By Alexandra Skores, The Dallas Morning News
Published: January 23, 2024, 8:08am

Southwest Airlines pilots approved a new five-year contract worth $12 billion and boosting pay 50% over the deal, the Dallas-based carrier announced Monday.

The 11,000-plus pilots represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association accepted the agreement with 92.73% voting in favor and 7.27% against. About 98.8% of the union’s membership voted on the contract which includes a 29.15% pay increase on the day of ratification.

Pilots also will get 4% raises in 2025, 2026 and 2027. In 2028, pilots will get a 3.25% raise, among many changes to benefits and coverage with the Dallas-based air carrier.

“It’s important to recognize from both viewpoints that this is a contract that brings some stability to Southwest Airlines, as well as kind of a roadmap for their future,” said Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

Pilots at Southwest’s previous contract was amendable in 2020 and took more than three years to negotiate. The contract runs through Dec. 2028 and also includes a new process for recovering the carrier’s pilot network, if needed, Southwest said.

“Our pilots are world-class aviators who uphold Southwest’s commitments to safety, hospitality, and connecting people to what’s important in their lives,” said Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations at Southwest in a release. “This agreement justly rewards our pilots and supports our operational needs.”

Since Oct. 2022, nine union-represented workgroups have ratified new agreements at Southwest.

Southwest was the last pilot union among the four biggest carriers to sign a new deal in less than 12 months, following Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines.

In 2023, Delta Air Lines announced a pilots deal, where pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. The deal raised their pay by more than 30% over four years. United Airlines pilots reached an agreement for a new four-year contract, providing a cumulative increase in total compensation of as much as 40.2% over the life of the agreement, in July. In August, American’s pilots voted in their deal, with raises of more than 41% over four years.

But going last, although the carrier and the union would have preferred a deal sooner rather than later, did have its advantages, Murray said.

“Our contract is now directly comparable to our peers, which for many, many many decades and was not,” Murray said.

The air carrier is in mediation with flight attendants for a new contract and in negotiations with its ramp, operations, provisioning and cargo agents.