Southwest Airlines pilots Wednesday declined to ratify a new five-year contract, with just over half voting no.
The pilots and carrier have been negotiating a new contract since September 2006.
“This contract, despite some financial gains, contained too many other negative aspects to ratify it,” said Capt. Carl Kuwitzky, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association.
Chuck Magill, Southwest’s vice president of flight operations, noted the close vote and said the airline’s negotiating team would resume work toward an agreement.
The pilots group’s board plans to meet next week to discuss returning to the bargaining table with Southwest. Meanwhile, pilots will continue under the current contract.
Last month, Southwest and the International Association of Machinists announced a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract for its roughly 5,300 customer-service employees. The mechanics and ground-operations workers have ratified a new deal, while flight attendants are voting on theirs.
The contracts comes as Southwest enters one of the most difficult times of its 38-year history. The company has reported losses for the past three quarters as fuel-hedging bets soured, a once-vaunted effort at Southwest that helped the company keep costs lower than rivals while avoiding a quarterly loss for 17 years.
Air-travel demand is falling, and Southwest is cutting capacity – in contrast to its long history of growth – and shedding payroll.