Southwest Airlines is facing such an acute staffing shortfall that it was forced to reopen flight attendant recruitment for a brief period last week. The airline last accepted new flight attendant applications last September in a process that normally ever takes place every few years at a minimum.
On Thursday, Southwest said it would have to reduce its schedule over the busy summer period because it is struggling to hire enough staff to keep up with a return in travel demand.
Similar issues have plagued other airlines around the world. Earlier this week, JetBlue said it would be cutting its schedule because of a lack of manpower, while passengers in Europe are facing continued headwinds as airlines and airports struggle to rehire staff lost during the pandemic.
Southwest says it has recovered from “acute staffing challenges” during the Omicron surge but challenges would remain over the next few months at least.
“As we focus on the basics, our priorities for 2022 are clear: getting properly staffed and returning to historic operational reliability,” commented new chief executive Bob Jordan on Thursday.
“We remain intensely focused on our hiring and training efforts as we work diligently to restore our network and position the Company for future growth.”
Even after slashing its schedule, Southwest still, however, expects “to be solidly profitable for the remaining three quarters of this year” and for 2022 as a whole.
The airline has seen “solid” bookings and Jordan says Southwest is “significantly” protected from rising jet fuel price rises because the company hedged fuel when prices were lower.
Last year, the Southwest flight attendant union slammed the airline for overworking crew members who they claimed were exhausted. The union implored Southwest to hire more staff to keep up with the rise in demand.
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.