A Southwest Airlines plane takes off as representatives of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) and pilots demonstrate outside Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Southwest Airlines The pilots’ union said Thursday it was seeking to move out of federal mediation on a new labor contract, laying the groundwork for a potential strike as talks with airlines have yet to reach an agreement.

Jody R. Reven, chairman of the negotiating committee, wrote: “I regret to inform you that SWAPA and Southwest failed to effectively resolve many important outstanding issues and that further mediation may not resulting in any additional agreement between the parties,” said a letter filed with the National Mediation Council on Thursday, according to a letter seen by CNBC.

The airline and the union have been in contract negotiations for more than three years, and negotiations have been tense. Pilots at the Dallas-based airline voted last month to authorize a possible strike by the union, which called for the poll after a holiday collapse late last year.

According to a letter the union sent to the National Mediation Council, the union said Southwest refused to engage in “substantial discussions or make approvable recommendations” on issues such as wage increases, work rules, improved quality of life and fatigue relief.

Southwest Airlines had no immediate comment.

Pilot strikes in the U.S. are extremely rare, and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s request doesn’t mean a strike is imminent in U.S. labor procedures law. The last time a major US passenger airline went on strike in the country was in 2010, as did Spirit Airlines.

There are several so-called “cooling-off periods” if the state labor board declares a standoff between Southwest and its pilot union. The last 30 days provide time for a potential agreement to be reached.

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