Southwest Airlines is offering referral bonuses in a bid to boost employee numbers and keep up with the resurgence in travel demand. The airline says it is looking to “hire in large numbers” but flight attendants say they are already “exhausted, frustrated and forgotten” by the Dallas-based airline.
Southwest is hiring for a wide range of jobs across its business but unlike the likes of jetBlue, Frontier and American Airlines, the carrier is not yet hiring new flight attendants to relieve the burden off the shoulders of existing crew members.
In a letter sent to Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly, the flight attendant union said it had “sounded the alarm for months” to company executives but nothing had yet been done to help flight attendants who are now at “breaking point”.
“Some of us – far too many of us – are sick,” the letter sent by Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 Executive Branch on Tuesday says.
“The circumstances we are forced to endure are NO WAY to treat the best Flight Attendants in the industry, the face of our Company and the front-line safety professionals whose primary goal is the safety of our Customers,” the letter continues.
The union claims Southwest has implemented an emergency sick call procedure throughout the pandemic which makes it harder for flight attendants to call sick. “These procedures were never meant to be used as a stop-gap for poor operational planning,” the letter explains.
The letter also accuses Southwest of subjecting flight attendants to “abusive” extended working days, constant rescheduling and “absurdly extended duty days”.
And at the end of those long duty days, some Southwest flight attendants are sleeping in the airport because the airline is accused of failing to provide transport and hotel accommodation for crew members.
In a desperate plea, the union asks Kelly for support in “any and every way possible.”
As part of Southwest’s attempts to bring new staff into the business, it’s offering existing employees a referral bonus for anyone they recommend who is hired and stays with the airline for at least six months.
Employees will get 20,000 SWAG points for every successful referral -SWAG points are taxable and equivalent to around 1.5 cents each.
In a statement, the airline said it was “engaging our workforce by formalizing this referral process through our internal recognition program that allows employees who have opted-in to use earned points for additional travel privileges, gift cards, and merchandise.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.