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Southwest, pilots union near a preliminary labor deal

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, May 7, 2023.

Nicolas Economou | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines and its pilots union are closing in on a recent contract that may raise pay for the carrier’s greater than 11,000 aviators and end months of contentious negotiations, weeks ahead of the crucial holiday travel season.

The company and the union have agreed on pay, retirement and other items but are working on an implementation schedule, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said in a message to its members on Thursday.

Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines have already finalized multibillion-dollar labor agreements with pilots this yr as unions pushed for pay hikes, higher scheduling and other improvements after the Covid pandemic derailed contract talks.

If a preliminary agreement is approved by the Southwest pilots union board in the approaching weeks, it might then go to the pilots for a ratification vote.

The union and the airline declined to supply specifics of the deal.

Southwest and the union “are working hard to shut out the few remaining items,” an airline spokesman told CNBC. “Southwest stays committed to reaching an agreement that rewards our Pilots and places them competitively within the industry.”

Southwest reached a preliminary agreement with its flight attendants union earlier this fall that features 36% pay increases for cabin crew members.

A labor deal between the corporate and its pilots would end a period of tense negotiations, which recently included laying groundwork for a possible strike, though strikes are extremely rare within the airline industry.

It would also develop into the most recent in a string of huge labor deals this yr, including agreements between Hollywood studios and actors, and the studios and writers, in addition to between automakers and the United Auto Workers union, following strikes.

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