After more than three years of often-acrimonious negotiations, Southwest Airlines has an agreement in principle for a new contract with its pilots’ union. 

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said on 19 December that its 25-member board of directors will meet the following day to decide on whether to release the proposed contract for a full vote from members. 

”We are finally at a place where we think the value of our pilots and their productivity is being realised,” says Casey Murray, president of SWAPA. “Our pilots and Southwest Airlines customers deserve security and confidence in our future and we believe that this contract achieves that.” 

Southwest 737 in Austin, Texas

Source: Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Contract negotiations between SWAPA and Southwest are finally moving again after appearing to be stalled for several months 

Southwest declined to provide contract details, citing its tentative nature and the pending pilots’ vote. 

“We are pleased to reach an agreement in principle with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association for Southwest’s nearly 11,000 pilots,” the carrier says, adding that the agreement “is a key milestone in the process”. 

The agreement in principle is the first sign of positive progress in several months, as the two sides have been negotiating under federal mediation since September 2022. Recently, the union has been signalling frustration with what it frames as a lack of productive dialogue. 

In June, SWAPA requested to be released from mediation, following an overwhelming vote in favour of a strike from the carrier’s pilots. 

Pilots at other major carriers – including the USA’s Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines, plus WestJet in Canada – have recently won new lucrative new contracts with their respective airlines. All of those carriers are represented by major union the Air Line Pilots, International.