Southwest Airlines, flight attendants' union reach tentative agreement

Flight attendants' union members will now vote to ratify the new contract with Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines on Wednesday announced a tentative agreement with its flight attendants union on a new contract that will impact nearly 20,000 cabin crew members.

Union representatives have demanded higher pay and better work rules under the terms of any new contract. The previous contact came up for renewal in 2018.

"Southwest's Flight Attendants support the Safety and comfort of our Customers while providing legendary Southwest Hospitality," said Adam Carlisle, vice president labor relations at Southwest Airlines. "I am glad they will have the opportunity to vote on this new agreement."

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In the past two years, unions across the aerospace, construction, airline and rail industries have demanded higher wages and more benefits in a tight labor market.

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A Southwest Airlines plane takes off

A Southwest commercial airliner takes off from Las Vegas International Airport on Feb. 8, 2024. (Mike Blake/File / Reuters Photos)

Since October 2022, nine Southwest labor unions have ratified new agreements with the airline. 

The Transport Workers Union's local chapter, representing the flight attendants, will present details of the agreement directly to the cabin crew members for a ratification vote.

"Today, the TWU Local 556 Executive Board approved a proposed tentative agreement with Southwest Airlines. Member education will begin on Monday and voting will commence in a few weeks," said Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556. 

"Our Membership is the ultimate authority, and they will decide if this agreement becomes our new Collective Bargaining Agreement with Southwest Airlines."

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A Southwest Airlines flight attendant pickets outside O'Hare International Airport

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant outside O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Feb. 13, 2024. (Taylor Glascock/Bloomberg via / Getty Images)

In December, Southwest Airlines reached a tentative agreement with its pilots union that provides aviators a 50% pay raise over the next four years. 

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents about 11,000 pilots, in January ratified the five-year agreement, which delivered better pay, retirement benefits, disability insurance and a revised scheduling process.

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Southwest Airlines plane takes off

A Southwest Airlines passenger flight takes off from San Diego International Airport in California. (Mike Blake/File / Reuters Photos)

"With a strong voter turnout of 98.8% voting on the new contract, the pilots accepted the new agreement with 92.73% voting in favor and 7.27% against," the union said in a statement.

The collective bargaining agreement secured pilots an immediate 29.15% pay raise and a 4% increase in each of 2025, 2026, 2027. The contract provides for a 3.25% pay raise in 2028. 

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The deal came after the union went as far as authorizing a potential strike, and even opened a regional strike center in Texas, to pressure the airline into a deal after it felt like talks were going nowhere. 

Last year, United Airlines pilots ratified a contract with cumulative wage increases ranging between 34.5% and 46% over four years and other benefits, following deals at American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

FOX Business' Daniella Genovese and Reuters contributed to this report.