Southwest Offers Referral Bonuses To Try And Boost Crew Applicants

As air travel continues to bounce back from its pandemic lows, Southwest Airlines has launched an incentive that it hopes will bring in new employees. In a move designed to encourage current employees to get their friends and family to apply for a job, Southwest is offering SWAG points. If a referral accepts a job offer and works for the airline for a minimum of six months, the person who referred them will receive 20,000 SWAG points.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is asking its employees to refer new hires. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG) is the airlines’ employee recognition program. When Southwest Airlines’ employees excel in their jobs, they are rewarded with SWAG points. The SWAG points can purchase air miles, guest passes for flights, merchandise, concert tickets, and passes for sporting events. Southwest Airlines SWAG points reportedly have a taxable value of 1.5 cents, giving the incentive a value of around $300.

Southwest has trouble hiring

In a Southwest Airlines memo written to staff on Tuesday that was seen by CNBC, Southwest Airlines’ vice president, and chief people officer, Julie Weber said,

“Southwest is experiencing a sharp decline in qualified applicants due to low labor force participation and competition for available talent.”

Along with the 20,000 SWAG points on offer, Weber said five employee referrals would also be selected each week for 5,000 points for the referring staff member.

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A worker shortage has led to disruptions

Last summer, at the height of the pandemic, Southwest Airlines and other American carriers encouraged workers to take early retirement. Now, they are scrambling to hire people faster than many airline executives expected.

The shortage of workers has led to flight disruptions, canceled flights, and hours-long waiting in a queue. The worker shortage has also had a knock-on effect in other occupations, with flight crews complaining about a lack of hotels or food options when they are flying.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines now pays a $15 minimum wage. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in June in another move that has had a limited effect. When speaking about the decision with USA Today, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brad Hawkins said,

“Southwest continually works to attract and retain the best candidates for open positions. As part of this ongoing effort, Southwest is increasing minimum pay rates so that all hourly employees will make at least $15 per hour.”

Many prominent American companies blame the labor shortage on generous unemployment benefits that have encouraged workers to stay home. This is a sentiment echoed by many Republican lawmakers who say that the handouts have acted as a disincentive to work. And yet, even with benefits running out in many states, people are not rushing back to work.

The pandemic has been a wake-up call

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has given American workers a wake-up call or even a time-out, allowing them to reassess their lives. Particularly for women in the workforce, the pandemic has allowed them to stay home with their children and save a fortune on daycare. Having spent so much time at home, many Americans no longer wish to return to their old jobs and are now seeking a fresh challenge.

Southwest Airlines
Many people do not want to go back to their old jobs. Photo: Southwest Airlines

What do you think about Southwest Airlines’ referral program? Is it a good idea, or would Southwest be better off looking at other ways to boost hiring? Please tell us what you think in the comments.