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Southwest, pilots union near a preliminary labor deal, the last of the major U.S. airlines

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Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft is seen landing at dusk time at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.
Nicolas Economou | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines and its pilots’ union are closing in on a new contract that would raise pay for the carrier’s more 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 year as unions pushed for pay hikes, better scheduling and other improvements after the Covid pandemic derailed contract talks.

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

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

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

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

A labor deal with its pilots would end a period of tense negotiations between the company and the union, which recently included laying groundwork for a potential strike, though strikes are extremely rare in the airline industry.

It would also become the latest in a string of big labor deals this year, including agreements between Hollywood writers, actors and studios as well as between automakers and the United Auto Workers union, following strikes.

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