After two years of struggles facing the travel industry, the pandemic has forced Southwest Airlines into a battle over masks. Southwest found itself one of the leaders in the news over travel regulations. An incident back in November saw a pilot and flight attendant involved in a physical altercation over masks. Then the next month, their CEO, alongside his competitors claiming masks were unnecessary on their flights. A new conflict is on the horizon seeing Southwest pilots and flight attendants battle over adherence to mask mandates.
Mask battle is not new for Southwest
In November, a Southwest Airlines pilot received citations for assault and battery following an alleged fight with a flight attendant. While details of the incident in the California hotel remained hushed, the arresting officer cited disagreements on masks.
“The event involved a disagreement over mask-wearing or masks,” Sgt. Christian Camarillo, a public information officer for the San Jose Police Department, told USA Today.
New mask battle between pilots and flight attendants
Kyle Arnold of the Dallas Morning News reports a new battle brewing for Southwest Airlines. The flight attendant union is alleging a difference in treatment between its members and pilots. The flight attendants have to wear facemasks in addition to enforcing the mandate on the passengers. All the while, pilots are coming and going as they please, with or without masks.
“As you are well aware, flight attendants have had to enforce this federal mask mandate, which has created issues in the cabin when customers refuse to comply,” Transport Workers Union Local 556 wrote in a letter to Southwest management. “We have proudly handled the divisive issue of mask mandates in a professional manner, only to encounter a mask compliance situation with Southwest Airlines pilots.”
The union, which represents over 15,000 flight attendants, lays the blame at the feet of the VP of Flight Operations, Bob Waltz. “Discipline for infractions by flight attendants is harsher and much less forgiving for what is sometimes the exact same violation,” the union said. “What may be a proverbial slap on the wrist for a pilot is termination for a flight attendant.”