Southwest Baggage Handlers Say Too Many Flights + More Passengers + Not Enough Planes = Delays

At more than a dozen airports around the country today, baggage handlers and other ground crew workers for Southwest Airlines are protesting their employer, claiming that the carrier is too focused on cramming as many people into the fewest planes possible.

Southwest has been criticized in recent months for its sagging on-time performance stats, and the unions representing the protesting workers say that these delays are the result of decisions that maximize a plane’s efficiency but leave little room for hiccups.

“Southwest Airlines now flies larger planes with more checked luggage than ever before but hasn’t given most baggage handlers a raise in the last four years,” reads a statement on the website for Transport Workers Union Local 555, which represents Southwest ground workers. “More suitcases, larger planes, unreasonably tight schedules with more connections and overworked and undervalued ground crews means delays for all Southwest customers.”

The president of TWU Local 555 tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the union is “not proud” of the airline’s recent decline in on-time arrivals and departures.

“In the past, Southwest has been a successful company for all stakeholders because of a culture that valued workers and put a premium on industry-leading customer service,” he explains, adding that he believes the current leadership at the airline has devalued both customers and employees.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, a rep for Southwest says today’s protests are just par the course when negotiating a union contract.

“Informational picketing is a common practice during negotiations and will not impact our operations,” says the Southwest rep. “We have always supported, and will continue to support, our Employees’ right to express their opinions. We continue to share the Unions sense of urgency to secure a fair agreement. Reaching the right deal for both Employees and the Company remains a top priority; and it must be one that is fair to all Employees, enables the Company to grow, and protects our position as a low-cost leader in the industry.”