Pilots at Southwest Airlines have overwhelmingly approved a new contract that will result in substantial pay increases over the next few years. By 2028, their pay rates will see an impressive jump of nearly 50%. This agreement marks the final group of pilots among the nation's four largest airlines to secure significant raises.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association announced on Monday that the contract, which covers approximately 11,000 pilots, was ratified with an impressive margin of 93% to 7%.
Over the past year, airline labor groups, with pilots taking the lead, have effectively negotiated pay raises as most U.S. carriers have returned to profitability following the challenging times caused by the pandemic. The shortage of pilots, especially at smaller airlines that serve as training grounds for major carriers like American, Delta, United, and Southwest, has also worked in favor of pilots.
The agreement reached by Southwest Airlines and its pilots comes after more than three years of intense negotiations.
According to Casey Murray, President of the pilots' union, this development is a long-awaited accomplishment made possible through the unity and determination of the entire pilot group. Murray further emphasized that this contract offers pilots the much-needed security and protections they have been striving for.
Adam Carlisle, the airline's vice president of labor relations, expressed his satisfaction with the new contract, stating that it appropriately rewards the pilots while aligning with the operational requirements of the airline.
Southwest Airlines highlighted that this five-year deal provides its pilots with industry-leading compensation. Additionally, it introduces a new process for assigning pilots to flights during unforeseen circumstances. The pilots' union has pointed out that the previous process implemented by Southwest Airlines resulted in approximately 17,000 canceled flights during and after a winter storm in December 2022.
Under the terms of the contract, pay rates will immediately increase by 29.15% upon ratification. This will be followed by annual raises of 4% in 2025, 2026, and 2027, with a final increase of 3.25% in 2028. Overall, this amounts to an impressive cumulative increase of just under 50% over the duration of the contract.
The new contract also includes important changes concerning pilot retirement, scheduling, and parental-leave programs, as outlined by the pilots' union.