Southwest Airlines Co.
increases overtime pay, including offering double-time pay for flight attendants, with the aim of avoiding possible staff shortages during the 4 July weekend.
The Southwest operation has been plagued by technical glitches and a series of bad weather in recent weeks. The airline canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend and Monday as severe thunderstorms hit some of its busiest airports, including Denver, Chicago, St. Louis and parts of Florida.
Airlines executives have said they hope the extra pay will encourage employees to take shifts or take extra trips in the first week of July. Flight attendants are eligible to save double time to pick up open trips during this period, according to a Monday memo from Sonya Lacore, vice president of flight operations. The note had previously been reported by CNBC.
Southwest will also offer double pay for ground operations officers and freight agents who take additional shifts during the same period, a spokesperson said.
The move is the latest sign of the challenges airlines face in coping with rapidly increasing travel demand this summer, which has made it harder to deal with more typical disruptions such as weather. American Airlines Group Inc.,
which has encountered similar problems, said earlier this month it would reduce its July flights in a bid to ease potential tensions on its operations.
Many of Southwest’s recent cancellations have taken place in anticipation of inclement weather, a spokesperson said on Monday. The airline said cancellations give customers more time to adjust, minimize delays at airports and reduce the risk of flights being diverted due to sudden storms. Recovering from these types of problems often takes days.
Airline pilots said the extra pay offer was “at best a temporary fix” that wouldn’t solve a deeper problem: a training backlog which means there aren’t enough pilots available. to steer the ambitious summer schedule established by the carrier.
“It is clear (since the spring!) That our operation was on track for a brutal summer caused by the oversold of a schedule that they absolutely cannot fill,” the union wrote in a message to the pilots on Monday. . Union president Casey Murray said the pilots wanted broader changes to address the scheduling issues and failed to come to an agreement with the company on the offer of double pay.
A spokesperson for Southwest said the airline had planned to ramp up its summer flights with its pilot training needs in mind.
Alan Kasher, executive vice president of daily operations at Southwest, wrote in another message to employees that staffing issues are a short-term problem. While the airline offers many more flights than a year ago, its schedule is still shorter than before the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also expanded to flights on a larger network, with fewer daily flights between many city pairs. That, coupled with full flights, has at times made it more difficult to retrieve and rebook customers after things went wrong, he wrote.
“We were prepared for this increased demand for travel with planes and personnel that we had planned for the summer, and this increase is good news after our business suffered last year,” he said. he writes. “However, irregular operations disrupt even the best plans and can make it difficult for the operation to resume quickly.”
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