Southwest Pilots Have Tentative Deal to Fly Larger Airplanes

Last Updated Oct 14, 2010 5:36 PM EDT

Despite using more combative language in the last month, Southwest's (LUV) pilots have now come to a tentative agreement to fly the larger 737-800. This doesn't mean that Southwest will actually fly them, but the largest hurdle has now been overcome. It does mean, however, that I still can't figure out why this is being discussed publicly.

When Southwest first announced that it was interested in flying the 737-800s, I couldn't figure out why the airline would bother talking about it unless it was meant to put public pressure on the unions to agree to fly the airplanes. Since the flight attendants were the first ones to respond publicly, I thought that pressure was directed at the flight attendants, but I was wrong. They came to an agreement quickly.

My suspicions then shifted toward the pilots after they suggested that they weren't entirely thrilled with this plan. Now the pilots have come to an agreement as well. Go figure.

This new pilot agreement extends the current contract for one year and includes "the potential for wage rate increases based on the Company's financial performance." In other words, no wage increase but increased profit-sharing potential, I suppose.

So the labor deals are done, and now Southwest just has to work out logistics around the order to decide whether or not to proceed with it. I believe we'll hear by December 1 which way the airline decides to go. But why did Southwest start talking about this so early when there was no reason to do so?

It still seems most likely that it was to put pressure on labor. We'll never know, I guess. If that was the goal, I seems to have worked. I really can't think of another good reason for Southwest to have started talking about this when it did. Southwest does like to do things differently, but usually when things are done differently, there's a clear reason why. That's not the case here.

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Photo via Flickr user randomduck/CC 2.0