Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Southwest Airlines F/A Union approves addition of 737-8H4 to carriers fleet

Southwest Airlines and union flight attendants Wednesday announced a deal that partially clears the way to fly Boeing 737-800 jets. The carrier is still talking with union pilots.

Southwest announced last month that it was considering changing some of its 737-700 orders to larger 737-800s. Southwest now has 109 737-700s on order, although it also flies older 737 models.

Adding 737-800s, which seat 36 more passengers in a typical two-class layout than the 737-700, would require a fourth flight attendant on each flight and a deal with unions.

"When Southwest notified us last month of their intention to consider purchase of these larger aircraft, we immediately agreed to put negotiations on a faster track than required under our existing agreement, in order to help our members, our customers, and our employer take advantage of this potential opportunity," the Transport Workers Union Local 556 said in a news release. It said the resulting deal ensures the contractual pay raise tied to the airline's 2010 performance will be at least 2 percent, and includes company-paid training, the formation of a labor-management committee on work rule issues and a one-year contract extension.

Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the joint committee would work on the logistical details related to adding a fourth flight attendant on flights if the company decides to go ahead with the 737-800.

"The TWU negotiating committee quickly grasped the potential benefits along with the added operational complexities associated with adding the -800 to our fleet," Van de Ven said. "The fact that we can have these discussions over the course of a couple of meetings and quickly find a common ground that is a win for our company and our flight attendants is a testament to the collaboration and long-term vision of the Flight Attendants' Union Leadership."

The union's executive board has unanimously approved the tentative agreement, which will go to the union's 9,400 members for ratification by Dec. 1, in time for the order change. Van de Ven said the airline is still talking with union pilots and evaluating network and configuration options.


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