Southwest Airlines has reportedly hired and trained around 3,000 flight attendants since the start of the year, with plans to hire additional flight crew to meet strong travel demand.
The world’s largest low-cost carrier said that it had hired triple the amount of crew members this year as it did in all of 2018, with a 7,000-candidate pipeline waiting to be tapped. The attrition rate among Southwest’s cabin crew members fell from 6.1% in 2019 to 2.5% in September 2022, according to the airline.
Southwest currently has more than 62,000 full-time employees. This is a 1.93% increase from the 60,800 employees that it had at the end of 2019 prior to the pandemic and the industry-wide exodus of airline pilots.
As part of the Trump administration’s $54 billion federal bailout, airlines were prohibited from laying off staff during the pandemic and could only grant extended leaves of absence or early retirement. After the pandemic, however, an industry-wide pilot shortage left airlines scrambling to hire and train the proper candidates.
To date, Southwest has hosted three “Hiring Blitz” events at its corporate campus in Dallas. The events are designed to locate ideal job candidates through in-person interviews and “physical performance standards tests,” among other screenings. Candidates who completed Southwest’s hiring process were given on-the-spot contingent job offers.
Southwest’s next hiring event will take place later this week at the Denver International Airport and includes on-the-spot interviews and instant job offers for ramp workers, according to a company memo.
Despite positive news of record hirings in 2022, Southwest’s flight attendants’ union and corporate management have been embroiled in contract negotiations for much of this year. Like most airline pilots, flight attendants have complained of job fatigue, delays, cancellations, scheduling conflicts, and the need for higher wages to offset continued inflationary pressures.
A federal mediator will be in attendance at the collective bargaining talks set to begin on November 1, according to the memo.
As contract negotiations hit a roadblock, Southwest flight attendants have begun to picket at major airports demanding better working conditions.