It has been two months since most airlines across Europe and the United States (and the world) faced a mass call to strike from employees demanding the renewal of contracts with better pay.
During the pandemic, at least 40,000 employees lost their jobs in the airline industry worldwide, one of the hardest-hit sectors of the global economy.
Most airlines required financial aid from their respective governments to stay afloat due to the strain they faced during the pandemic, with amounts exceeding $100 billion given to airline companies worldwide in 2020 alone.
Since early 2022, the travel demand gradually started picking up as many countries opened their borders worldwide.
By the end of the year, most airlines had resumed normal operations (some adding new routes to meet the sudden surge in travel demand since the pandemic) but faced staff shortages due to the effect of downsizing over the previous two years.
The effect was that the existing employees were overworked, leading to airline strikes starting in mid-2022. Cabin crew, pilots, and ground staff in airline companies worldwide began striking against difficult working conditions and asking for higher pay.
Many airlines have met employees’ demands, while others are still negotiating. Southwest Airlines, for example, incurred almost $1 billion in losses between December 21 and 31 last year after almost 16,700 flights were canceled by airline management amid the strikes.
“It was the lack of discussion or commitment by our leadership team to rectify these issues for our passengers and our pilots that drove us to make the decision to carry forward on this path afforded to us by the Railway Labor Act,” said Captain Casey Murray, President of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) in a statement.
According to the Railway Labor Act (which governs US airline labor relations), pilots cannot, under contract, strike to prevent disruption of communities and interstate commerce.
The decision to strike is currently being voted on by various airlines, with the possibility of disruption in operations highly likely in 2023.