RICH THOMASELLI | TravelPulse.Com
Troy Warren for CNT #Travel
A battle is apparently brewing at Southwest Airlines between its flight attendants and pilots over the federal mask mandates.
In a story by Kyle Arnold of the Dallas Morning News, Southwest’s flight attendants’ union is alleging that while they have to wear facemasks in addition to handling onboard verbal and physical assaults by passengers, some pilots are coming and going as they please without wearing a mask.
“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, according to the Morning News. “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.”
TWU Local 556 represents more than 15,000 Southwest flight attendants.
The union said its members are subject to reprimands if they don’t wear the mask while claiming pilots are able to board and disembark the plane without being masked up and also have participated in on-ground training without masks. Pilots are allowed to remove their masks once inside the cockpit.
The airline said it has followed the mask protocol since May of 2020 when the mandate was first introduced.
“Since that time, Southwest’s Pilot and Flight Attendant Leadership Teams have sent multiple, jointly-authored reminders to Crews encouraging adherence to both Southwest’s and the TSA’s face mask requirement during this challenging time,” the company said in a statement to the Morning News.
The union said the blame falls on Southwest’s vice president of flight operations, Bob Waltz, who oversees the carrier’s 8,500 pilots.
“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.”
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