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United Airlines and Southwest Airlines Both Have a Big Problem

A crisis could be looming for the airline industry that could leave you stranded.

Pilots for United Airlines plan to stage a picket on Jan. 18 at San Francisco International Airport in order to draw attention to “United’s unwillingness to invest in its pilots.”

The informational picket began at 9:30 am PST and will last until 1:15 p.m., according to the United Master Executive Council website.

United  (UAL) - Get Free Report pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association and will be joined by other members of the ALA, as well as by members of the Association of Flight Attendants and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“Management has chosen to delay the conclusion of our negotiations,” said United Master Executive Council acting chair Capt. Mike Harrison said in a statement. “Our informational picketing sends management the message that United pilots are unified, and we’ve waited long enough for a contract. Continued stalling at the bargaining table puts the company’s growth plans at risk and hinders the airline’s overall goal of being the best airline in the world.”

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Southwest Has Also Gone to the Picket Line

United's pilots seem to be taking a cue from Southwest Airline's (LUV) - Get Free Report workers. 

In 2022, employees at Southwest Airlines began holding pickets at events where management had congregated in order to bring attention to what they allege was executives’ unwillingness to spend the money to recruit enough employees, especially pilots, to replace the people who retired early or took a buyout during the pandemic. 

The pickets were also intended to bring attention to the need for Southwest’s management to upgrade the outdated scheduling software. Southwest’s employees allege that executives were more interested in giving themselves bonuses and paying stock dividends rather than spending the necessary money on operations, and as a result the airline’s reputation for quality service had been damaged. Customer service employees have had to bear the brunt of the public’s displeasure, which some consider an abusive situation. 

The final result of Southwest’s actions was the holiday meltdowns of last year, leading to more than 16,700 flights being canceled or delayed, which could end up costing Southwest $825 million, at least. Had Southwest’s management taken the necessary steps to invest in employees and infrastructure, many aviation experts say the December meltdown could have been avoided.

Southwest Pilots Are Angry

The Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA) recently shared a detailed statement about its ongoing issues with the airline.

"How did we get here? How did we go from the most stable and profitable airline in history to the greatest meltdown in airline history? As with most organizations, the answer can be distilled down to one word: Leadership. Actually, in our case, it’s three words: Lack of leadership," the association wrote in its letter.

This letter has been delivered at a time when the airline faces a pilot shortage that it's trying to remedy. SWAPA fully believes that the airline's holiday meltdowns were predictable and avoidable.

"There has never been any real accountability for the decision-makers as a result of any of these fiascos, or the numerous smaller ones in between. If the saying that 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results' is true, then what is it when the same people are allowed to do the same thing over and over again? Supreme insanity, perhaps?" the letter continued