In preparation for a busy summer, Southwest Airlines is bringing 2,700 flight attendants back to work. This follows Southwest the recalling over 200 pilots from leave last week. The flight attendants will resume work on June 1. Additionally, the decision comes as Southwest ramps up to nearly 3,000 daily flights.
Southwest Airlines brings flight attendants and pilots back to work
The flight attendants were among the 12,000 plus Southwest Airlines employees who took part in extended leave programs offered by the airline. That leave program saw employees paid 50% of their normal salaries and retaining health insurance. Provisions within the CARES Act saw any prospects of involuntary furloughs halted.
“To support the upcoming summer schedule, Southwest intends to recall all flight attendants participating in the airline’s voluntary extended time-off program,” a Southwest spokesperson told Simple Flying today.
The recalled pilots will also resume work on June 1. Southwest Airlines notes the pilots will complete all requalification training requirements before resuming flying duties.
“The flight attendant recalls, as with pilot recalls, are to position Southwest for the planned flight increases in the summer schedule, which are based upon the improvements in leisure travel demand that the airline recently reported,” Southwest says.
Business travel subdued, leisure travel ahead of expectations
From lows of around 1,200 flights a day, Southwest Airlines is steadily rebuilding its schedules. This week, Southwest Airlines is flying nearly 80% of the number of flights it operated in the comparable period in 2019. However, this week’s flights are up 65% on the comparable week in 2020.
There are still Southwest employees out on extended leave programs and not included in this week’s recall. Among that cohort are around 800 pilots. Southwest’s spokesperson told Simple Flying they don’t have any further staffing plans to announce at this stage.
Southwest says business travel continues to be subdued – that’s in line with what other United States-based airlines say. But Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has said leisure-led demand in March and April exceeds its earlier forecasts.
“March and April 2021 operating revenues are currently expected to improve compared with Southwest’s previous estimations, primarily due to an increase in passenger and fare expectations.
“Southwest has recently experienced an increase in bookings further out in the booking curve, but currently has limited visibility to bookings beyond May 2021.”
Southwest expands into new markets & eyes breaking even in June
Notwithstanding an unconfirmed number of employees still being off on extended leave, summer appears to be shaping up nicely for Southwest Airlines. In preparation, the airline has moved into several new markets this year. That includes maiden flights to Chicago O’Hare, Sarasota/Bradenton, Savannah/Hilton Head, and Colorado Springs. Next week, Southwest Airlines will start flying to Houston Intercontinental and Santa Barbara Airports. Later in the month, flights will start to Fresno. In May, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Bozeman will get their first Southwest flights.
In other signs, business is beginning to normalize at Southwest Airlines, the airline has axed its policy of boarding aircraft in small groups and is dropping special refund provisions on May 31 for passengers who find themselves flying on one of Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX’s.
Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly, has recently said he hopes to see the airline start to break even by June.
How do you think summer will shape up for Southwest Airlines? Post a comment and let us know