Southwest Offering Incentives to Retain Airline Staff During Holidays

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
November 15, 2021 Updated: November 15, 2021

Southwest Airlines on Saturday, in an internal memo, offered employees a variety of new attractive incentives to prevent travel disruptions and flight cancellations over the upcoming holiday season.

The airline is offering up to 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, valued at more than $1,400, to pilots, flight attendants, and other employees. Based on the note, flight attendants would be eligible to work 36 days from Nov. 15 to Jan. 14, while cabin crews who work 28 days over that period will get 60,000 points.

Southwest is paying almost triple the amount to ground operators who will stay back during Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with double pay, instead of the usual 1.5 times, for overtime shifts from Nov. 17 to Nov. 30, and between Dec. 17 and  Jan. 3.

During the pandemic, the company had cut down on its payroll by offering early retirement packages to employees. As the economy bounces back to normal, Southwest found it difficult to keep up with demand through the remaining personnel.

Last month, on Columbus Day weekend, Southwest had to cancel almost 2,000 flights resulting in a loss of $75 million due primarily to shortages of labor. The company hopes to prevent a similar scenario during this holiday period.

“We have a great opportunity here to uphold that commitment to them, and you, in the midst of what has been a difficult time for us all,” wrote Lacore in the note reviewed by CNBC. “Our first step in addressing this, and actively working to protect the operation, was to reduce the schedule, and we believe this incentive program will take us another step in the right direction.”

Similar to Southwest, American Airlines had to cancel around 2,000 flights last week due to staff shortages and alleged bad weather conditions. Coming out from the lockdowns, people are seemingly eager to get back to a normal situation and holiday travels are steadily picking up pace.

“To ensure we’re providing certainty for both our customers and team members, we’re doubling down on our efforts related to our schedule and staffing,” American’s COO David Seymour said in a staff note on Friday obtained by CNBC.

The company has offered triple pay to flight attendants based on how much they work during the season. According to the note, American has offered a deal for attendants and reserve cabin crew members who work peak-period trips between Nov. 23 and Nov. 29, or Dec. 22 through Jan. 2. They are eligible to receive time-and-a-half in pay, and for those with perfect attendance from Nov. 15 to Jan. 2, they can add on a 150 percent bonus to their regular pay.