DALLAS — The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association's (SWAPA) president on Wednesday called for a strike authorization vote this spring, according to a news release from the union.
Capt. Casey Murray, the SWAPA's president, called for the vote "in the wake of Southwest's largest meltdown and utter lack of meaningful progress on a contract negotiation," the release said.
The vote will begin May 1 "and will ultimately give the pilots the ability to strike once released to self-help," according to the release.
“We believe that May 1 provides a date that allows our union time to prepare and gives our customers time to book elsewhere, so that they can have confidence that their summer vacations, honeymoons, and family outings are assured," Murray said.
Murray cited the holiday travel chaos and a "lack of discussion or commitment by our leadership team to rectify these issues for our passengers" as his reasoning for calling the vote.
The union votes will be tallied at the end of May.
“It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but given the trajectory of our current leadership group, we have little faith in the stability and future of our airline," Murray said.
Thousands of Southwest flights were canceled during the week after Christmas and into the new year, as bad weather and technology issues left passengers stranded at airports across the country.
Southwest has been working to refund passengers for the canceled flights and also issue reimbursement for other travel expenses incurred during the ordeal.
"Emerging from some of the most challenging days in our Company's history, we are highly focused on our Customers, our recovery, and our plan going forward," Southwest Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan wrote in an email to customers this week. "Our immediate task has been to stabilize our operation, and we are pleased to report that since the disruptions, we've operated our expected flight schedule with the Southwest Reliability that we've upheld for 51 years."
Jordan said the company has formed "supplemental operational staffing," enhanced technology to communicate with employees and crew members better and upgraded the company's "crew recovery system" to help with scheduling and staffing issues.