Southwest Airlines hired a record 3,000 flight attendants so far this year

Passengers depart a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California, on October 10, 2021. Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Sunday as part of ‘a major weekend service disruption which the company attributed to bad weather. air traffic control and its own shortage of available personnel.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines has hired and trained 3,000 flight attendants so far this year, nearly triple its record hiring of cabin crew members for all of 2018, the company told staff last week.

Southwest and other airlines continue to struggle to hire and train staff to meet a rebound in travel demand, which executives expect to last this fall, led by strong leisure bookings.

Airlines were prohibited from laying off staff during the Covid pandemic under the terms of a $54 billion bailout, but were allowed to offer employees extended leave or early retirement.

Southwest said it currently has more than 62,000 full-time equivalent employees. That’s up from the 60,800 it had at the end of 2019, before the pandemic.

Southwest has also hosted three “Hiring Blitzes” at its Dallas corporate campus, where flight attendant candidates are interviewed, tested for physical performance standards and other screenings with the possibility of contingent job offers on site. Another is scheduled for this week, Southwest said in an employee memo last week.

The company told staff that it has 7,000 flight attendants in its hiring pipeline and that its attrition rate among new cabin crew members has dropped to 2.5% compared to 6.1% in 2019.

The hiring season comes as the union and management of Southwest flight attendants are deadlocked in contract negotiations. Talks with a federal mediator will begin Nov. 1 in Dallas, according to the memo.

Southwest and United Airlines flight attendants, who are represented by the Flight Attendants Association-CWA, will picket major airports on Tuesday to demand better working conditions.

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