Southwest Airlines says it has already hired 3,000 new flight attendants since the start of the year and a further 7,000 are currently in the recruitment pipeline. In an internal memo seen by CNBC, the airline told staffers it had smashed previous recruitment records as it raced to plug a shortfall of crew as travel demand surged back.
Facing increasing pressure from the flight attendants union, Southwest Airlines has been keen to point out to its own employees that it has never hired so many new flight attendants in such a short time.
In the last nine months, Southwest says it has hired and trained more than 3x more flight attendants than in 2018 – which had been a record recruitment year for Southwest.
In preparation for a rebound in travel demand, Southwest Airlines opened flight attendant recruitment in September 2021 for just four hours. Despite being inundated with applications, the airline was forced to reopen the recruitment window in April 2022 as it raced to hire as many new flight attendants as possible.
Southwest can sometimes go years without recruiting flight attendants but crew members represented by the TWU Local 556 union say they are fed up and are demanding change.
Hundreds of flight attendants will descend on 11 airports across the United States on Tuesday to protest what they describe as rapidly deteriorating working conditions that have ‘crippled’ their quality of life.
The union is demanding big pay rises and major work changes, but little progress has been made in protracted negotiations with the airline and the two sides are going to mediation in November in an attempt to break the deadlock.