Southwest Airlines attendants picket for better pay at Orlando International Airport

Attendants demand changes to work schedules, pay for time worked during boarding

ORLANDO, Fla. – Attendants with Southwest Airlines are picketing Friday morning at Orlando International Airport, demanding better pay and improved work quality.

TWU Local 556, a union of more than 18,000 flight attendants, gathered to demand better pay and job safety with a new contract with Southwest Airlines.

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The group will be picketing near the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at the airport.

“Because of an overwhelming number of delays from the company, flight attendants are left without the changes that are necessary to improve their working conditions. Flight attendants are demanding a new collective bargaining agreement with Southwest Airlines that addresses the many issues plaguing its members today — including during weather events like hurricanes -— that impact the ability of these safety professionals to do their jobs in helping to ensure passengers’ safety and comfort,” the union wrote in a release.

Some of the changes the attendants are demanding include control over work schedules, being paid for time worked during boarding or outside of originally scheduled hours.

Lyn Montgomery, the union president for TWU Local 556, said they have been negotiating with the airline for four years and haven’t had a wage increase in that time, despite Southwest Airlines making record profits.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Montgomery said. “It’s far too long to go for a company that says they’re employee-centric for us to go four long years working under an old contract.”

In January the airline reported its first quarterly profit since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. In October the airline reported record third-quarter operating revenues of $6.2 billion.

But like other airlines, the return to regular operations after the beginning of the pandemic has been rocky with overbookings and cancellations wreaking havoc.

“Regular operations have wreaked havoc on flight attendants’ lives. They’ve been left without hotel rooms; they have been left to fend for themselves,” Montgomery said. “They never get home when they’re supposed to be scheduled to get home anymore and we have trouble sometimes just even getting food and getting proper rest.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said the airline respected the union’s right to picket as long as it didn’t disrupt service.

Southwest Airlines has an award-winning Culture that respects our Employees and encourages them to express their opinions in a respectful manner. Informational picketing is common during contract negotiations, and we do not anticipate any disruption in service resulting from the demonstration planned by off-duty Flight Attendants. Southwest’s negotiations with TWU 556 and the National Mediation Board continued this week and we look forward to reaching an agreement so we can reward our Flight Attendants and continue attracting great talent.

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About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.