The phrase, once in a blue moon, springs to mind. Southwest Airlines is set to open up flight attendant recruitment to external candidates on Thursday, September 23 but the Dallas-based carrier expects it to be so popular that it will only keep the application window open for a total of four hours.
The news was revealed early to Southwest’s current flight attendants in an internal memo by the airline’s senior manager for talent acquisition Christie Laffey.
“As shared recently by our Senior Leaders, we’re continuing to invest in a very aggressive hiring plan, even with a scaled back schedule,” Laffey said. “Opening the Flight Attendant position externally is the fastest path towards stability for Southwest and allows us to fill the talent pipeline with a fresh set of potential candidates,” the memo continued.
“To ensure we quickly move to a healthier staffing position Companywide, it’s important that we prioritize external hiring. At this time, we’re not opening the position internally; however, we’ll continue to closely monitor our staffing needs throughout the year and adjust accordingly.”
Flight attendants say they are “exhausted” and have reached “breaking point” after a hectic Summer that was made worse by understaffing, severe weather and mask-related unruly passenger incidents – One of which resulted in a Southwest flight attendant losing two teeth when she was punched in the face by a passenger.
In a recent letter to Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly, the flight attendant union said it had “sounded the alarm for months” to company executives. “Some of us – far too many of us – are sick,” the letter sent by Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 Executive Branch on Tuesday said.
The letter accused Southwest of subjecting flight attendants to “abusive” extended working days, constant rescheduling and “absurdly extended duty days”. In a desperate plea, the union asked for support in “any and every way possible.”
Southwest plans to bolster the ranks of flight attendants with an express hiring event that will kick off at 1 pm (CDT) on September 23. But applicants will have to be quick – the window will close just four hours later at 5 pm.
Laffey encouraged flight attendants to get their friends and family to submit an application. Referral bonuses are on offer for employees who recommend someone who is hired and stays with the airline for at least six months.
Last month, Southwest said it planned to “hire in large numbers” across the business after the resurgence in demand for air travel took the carrier by surprise. After trimming staff numbers through the pandemic, Southwest struggled to keep up with the pace of the recovery.
Chief operating officer, Mike Van de Ven apologized to staff last month for the “significant strain” employees had been placed under through the busy Summer months. The airline has been forced to reduce its planned schedule for the next few months to give employees some breathing space.
Applications can only be submitted through the official Southwest careers website.
An earlier version of this article stated that the hiring window would open on September 16. A spokesperson has confirmed that the window has been delayed to September 23.
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.