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Southwest pilots participate in historic protest

DALLAS — Hundreds of pilots for Southwest Airlines held an informational picket against the airline Wednesday at Love Field Airport, the first in the company’s history.

The pilots say they are bringing attention to what they consider pay levels and work rules that are below industry standards.

“It’s a really difficult thing to have go down on your watch,” said Mike Panebianco, with Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. “But it’s at a point with the frustration of the pilot group — this far down the road has never really happened here at Southwest.”

When it comes to labor relations, Southwest has a long history of good relationships. For that reason, it was historic to see hundreds of pilots protesting against their employer.

In October, the two sides reached a tentative agreement. Then, in November, the rank-and-file pilots voted that deal down, even though union leadership had blessed it.

“We were disappointed last November when our pilots voted down a contract that included the industry’s highest pay rates at the time,” the airline said in a statement Wednesday.

The union has voted in new leadership since then, which was willing to use the more-aggressive tactics on display Wednesday.

There are plans for the two sides to sit down again in March, and pilots association leadership says it’s encouraged by company’s willingness to continue the dialog.

“We’re encouraged by the company’s willingness to come and meet with us, to go back to the table and try to work this deal out,” Panebianco said.

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