Southwest Airlines pilots say fatigue caused by poor scheduling is becoming more of a problem and increasing safety concerns.
Southwest Airlines pilots are suffering from an epidemic of fatigue, according to union leaders, as a result of the airline’s poor scheduling methods, which is causing safety concerns.
In an open letter to Southwest CEO Robert Jordan and senior executives on Tuesday, union officials said the difficulties began last summer, when the number of travelers rebounded to virtually pre-pandemic levels, and have since become worse.
The number of pilots requesting to be freed from a flight assignment due to exhaustion increased by 330 percent in March compared to the same month in pre-pandemic years, according to the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which is presently negotiating with the carrier for a new contract.
“April is already setting fatigue records,” they said. “Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat.”
After the airline made scheduling changes in November, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said the airline witnessed “a significant and continuous drop” in pilots phoning in exhausted. Weather-related airline cancellations interrupted plans, she said, so the March rise was expected.
The increase in tiredness calls in March, according to King, proves that the system is working and that the airline allows pilots to evaluate whether they are too weary to fly.