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Southwest reaches deal with mechanics union after 'solid' earnings report

A Southwest Airlines jet plane lines up for a landing at Love Field in Dallas.
LM Otero
A Southwest Airlines jet plane lines up for a landing at Love Field in Dallas.

Mechanics at Southwest Airlines have overwhelmingly approved a new collective bargaining agreement on the heels of the Dallas-based carrier reporting a $638 million profit in the second quarter.

The updated contract approved by members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association includes a more than 20.5% raise over three years.

“Our Mechanics and Related Employees bring their technical expertise in many areas and do a great job maintaining Southwest’s fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft,” read a statement from Adam Carlisle, Southwest's vice president of labor. “This contract provides them with industry-competitive compensation while continuing to support the needs of our operation.”

In a press release, the AMFA said the new pay increases put Southwest mechanics' wages above other major carriers including Delta, United and Fort Worth-based American Airlines.

“With the wage gains in this contract, SWA will be able to attract and retain the professional workforce it needs while allowing the company to grow and prosper,” said AMFA National President Bret Oestreich.

This agreement covers more than 2,800 mechanics and related employees at Southwest, including aircraft maintenance technicians, aircraft inspectors, maintenance controllers, training instructors and ground support equipment technicians.

Meanwhile Southwest is still negotiating new contracts with unions representing its pilots, flight attendants and ground workers.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association asked to be released from mediation last month in their contract negotiation process with the carrier, putting them one step closer to going on strike.

The main issue, SWAPA President Casey Murray previously told KERA, is that the union and Southwest disagree on pilots' overwhelming flight schedules which can contribute to flight delays and pilot fatigue, and lead to more widespread operational meltdowns like the one Southwest experienced over the holidays when thousands of flights were cancelled.

Last month Southwest also reached an agreement in principle with its flight attendants union before its board ultimately rejected that deal.

News of the ratified agreement for mechanics came the same day Southwest revealed its second quarter profit.

Michael Boyd, president of the airline consultancy firm Boyd International Group, said the carrier's operational costs were high and that trend's expected to continue as wages increase for other unions negotiating new contracts.

"Their costs have gone up, no question," he said. "But they're still a profitable airline and their future is pretty bright."

Southwest's profits weren't as large as other carriers like United Airlines and Fort Worth-based American Airlines, but Boyd said that's to be expected.

"The markets open to Southwest are very different than those open to other carriers because they're not going to be able to expand to Manila like United just did," he said. "The Wall Street dragons are going to point out everything wrong with Southwest, and that's their job, but the fact of the matter is, they're a solid revenue generator."

Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.