Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Warn Fatigue, Future Problems Could Arise Following Series of Flight Cancellations

Southwest Airlines planes are seen in a file photograph. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

Pilots from Southwest Airlines have warned that additional flight problems could occur as the company faces fatigue and other struggles among its staff members.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,800 flights over the weekend.  Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, representing the company’s 9,000 pilots, blamed company management concerning the issues.

“We’re going to see it next weekend or the holidays or whenever a thunderstorm pops up in Mexico,” Capt. Casey Murray told Wall Street Journal in a Monday interview.

On Saturday, the company announced on Twitter, “ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation. We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual.”

Airlines cancellations continued Monday and Tuesday, with the airline releasing an update statement on Tuesday to address the ongoing problems.

“As we complete efforts to stabilize our network, Southwest expects a more normal operation on Tuesday with approximately 90 system-wide cancellations out of the airline’s almost 3,300 flights scheduled for the day. Southwest Team appreciates the patience of Customers,” the company said in a statement.

By Wednesday, an update to the statement noted Southwest Airlines had “resumed normal operations.”

Some suggested the problems were due to the company’s vaccine mandate policy. However, both the company and the pilots’ association said this was not the case.

Pilots have expressed the situation could happen again due to a variety of issues. In addition to the mention of management concerns, the company remains in the middle of hiring back many of its furloughed workers unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Worker shortages are also a concern, both for Southwest Airlines and across the nation as companies struggle to recruit and retain quality workers in the aftermath of COVID-19.

In July, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote a letter to the CEOs of major airlines for information related to worker shortages.

“I am deeply concerned by recent reports highlighting … workforce shortages that have caused flight cancellations and generated delays for passengers,” Cantwell wrote.

“se shortages come in the wake of unprecedented federal funding that Congress appropriated, at the airlines’ request, to support the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

senator also added a series of questions for airline leaders regarding safe operation.

“Congress recognized the need to ensure that airline workers, including pilots, flight attendants, baggage crews, customer service professionals, contractors, and others could retain their jobs and, in turn, keep the airline industry operating safely for the American public,” Cantwell wrote.

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