Southwest Airlines prepare for walkout

The pilots union at Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) on Tuesday announced staffing and funding for a committee to prepare pilots and the flying public for a walkout, in case it cannot reach a contract deal with management in coming months.

The new strike preparedness committee will work with outside consultants and others in the union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA), said in a news release.

The union filed for the National Mediation Board (NMB) to oversee contract talks in November after negotiations had dragged on for more than three years. The latest round of talks began in February.

“While a strike is certainly not in either side’s best interest … (we are) doing our due diligence to prepare our pilots and passengers for the next steps in this federal mediation process should we not be able to reach a deal,” union President Paul Jackson said in the release.

In response to the committee announcement, Southwest said its customers have no reason to worry or change their travel plans.

“We have full faith in the mediation process,” spokesman Brian Parrish said in a statement. “Both parties are under the authority of the (National Mediation Board), and SWAPA would not be able to strike without the NMB releasing both parties from mediation.”