LONDON – On Tuesday the Southwest airlines union released an open letter to airline CEO Robert Jordan and other airline executives saying that the problems started back in Summer 2021 and with the continuation of poor scheduling has now made fatigue the airline’s number one safety concern.
“April is already setting fatigue records,” they said.
“Fatigue, both acute and cumulative, has become Southwest Airlines’ number-one safety threat.”
The letter states that during the month of March the number of pilots asking to be relived on flight assignments after being struck with fatigue climbed by 330% compared to the same month in pre-pandemic years.
Aviation Sector Under Major Pressures
The sudden and big surge in demand for travel has caught many airports and airlines off guard in recent months, with some carriers already back around their pre-pandemic numbers for summer travel.
With staff shortages and flight cancellations due to weather affecting passengers and crews all over the U.S over the last few days, this open letter is the latest issue to plague the airline.
Southwest said, however, that it has already seen a large drop-off, a spokesperson for the airline said it has seen “a significant and steady decline” in staff shortages related to fatigue after it fixed scheduling services in November of last year.
The spokesperson went on to add that the issues being listed out by the unions over March were likely caused by the adverse number of cancellations due to weather and other factors.
Has Southwest Created Its Own Issues
When we look at the surface of what is happening around the globe it is hard to see that airlines have not contributed to their current problems, however, it is not quite as clear-cut as this.
Southwest for example convinced thousands of employees to quit during the worst of the pandemic, as the airline needed to reduce its costs as demand for air travel plummeted to record low levels.
Since then the airline has gone on to hire several thousand staff according to the airline’s executives as it has been working hard to meet the fast-growing demand for travel.
According to ABC News, the number of people flying in the U.S topped 2 million a day during the march, which is 90% of pre-pandemic numbers. This according to pilot unions is the problem as there is a serious shortage of pilots right now.
One of the biggest challenges that airlines now face is how to deal with the pilot shortage, for years airlines and manufacturers have wanted that the demand for pilots will only continue to rise, now.
However, the biggest problem is one that has been plaguing the UK’s aviation training sector for some time and that is a serious lack of qualified Flight Instructors and Flight Examiners, as airlines race to hire more pilots flight instructors are the ideal place for them to recruit from as they have vast amounts of greater experience and hours over a newly trained student out of flight school.
But the hiring and training of pilots is a delicate dance to manage, if there are not enough instructors or examiners the ability to produce large amounts of qualified pilots slows down, which will ultimately stem the ability of an airline to grow quickly.