Southwest Airlines Pilots Overwhelmingly Vote in Favor of Strike Authorization

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) has announced that its members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike. The union represents over 9,000 pilots at Southwest Airlines, and 98% of its members participated in the vote, with 99% voting in favor of a strike. This comes after over three years of labor negotiations between the union and the airline.[0] The strike authorization vote was originally scheduled to run through the end of May, but pilots overwhelmingly placed their vote to strike after just a week and a half of voting.[0]

While a strike authorization vote is a long way from an actual strike, it is a negotiating move meant to show the company how disgruntled pilots are after negotiating since August 2020.[1] Before pilots can go on strike, they must receive authorization from federal regulators who have verified that there is no possibility of the two parties reaching an agreement.[0] Additionally, the airline heads into a busy summer travel season, making a strike highly unlikely to happen.[2] Southwest Airlines has never had a labor strike.[2]

In a statement, the airline emphasized that the vote does not mean that pilots are going on strike and that the vote result has no impact on scheduled operations.[3] The airline says it still expects mediation to end in a new contract for its flight deck crews and for its summer schedule to be unimpeded by the negotiations.[3] The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has stated that with a potential strike looming, its pilots have already made their voices heard about the operational disasters and the lack of progress after three-plus years of stagnant negotiations.

Just like the recent vote by American Airlines pilots, the Southwest vote is not expected to result in any strike or walkout that would cause disruption to the airline’s services.[2] The Railway Labor Act governs the industrial relations between airlines and their unionized workers. For Southwest pilots union, seeking permission from the National Mediation Board is necessary to allow their members to engage in self-help actions.[4] Despite the resounding expression of pilots’ opinions, the likelihood of a strike remains remote, as the union must surmount multiple challenging obstacles before a walkout can be authorized.

The vote by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association was supposed to take one month, but leaders closed it after just a week and a half, with 98% of pilots participating.[5] In a statement on SWAPA’s current strike vote, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations, Adam Carlisle, said: ​“Our negotiations continue, with talks resuming this week, and we’ll keep working with the assistance of the National Mediation Board to reach an agreement that rewards our Pilots and places them competitively in the industry.”

This comes as the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) has voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association, making the world’s largest pilots union even bigger.[1] The roughly 4,500 members of ACPA voted 84% in favor of the merger.[6] On May 7, an “overwhelming majority” of pilots with Canadian start-up carrier Lynx Air also voted to join the world’s largest pilots’ union.[3]

0. “Southwest Airlines pilots authorize a strike after 11 days of voting” Brunswick News, 11 May. 2023,

1. “Airline Pilots in the U.S. Are Barreling Closer to a Possible Strike” In These Times, 8 May. 2023,

2. “Southwest pilots just voted to authorize a strike: What that means and what it doesn’t”, 11 May. 2023,

3. “Southwest Airlines pilots vote to authorise strike | News | Flight Global” Flightglobal, 11 May. 2023,

4. “Southwest Airlines Pilots Union Ends Strike Vote Early After Overwhelming Support to Back Walkout”, 12 May. 2023,

5. “Southwest Airlines pilots vote to authorize strike amid years-long contract dispute” CBS News, 11 May. 2023,

6. “ALPA Just Got Bigger” Airline Weekly Aviation News, 8 May. 2023,