Southwest Warns 400 More Employees About Potential Furloughs

Southwest Airlines has sent furlough warnings to an additional 403 members of staff. This news comes as the Texan outfit struggles to cope with mounting labor costs amid this year’s global health crisis.

Southwest takes off from DIA
Southwest has been undergoing tough talks with its employees. Photo: Getty Images

Lack of demand

BloombergQuint highlights that this is the second time in two weeks that Southwest has shared such notices. Altogether, the operator has 20% more staff members than it requires in the current industry climate.

Simple Flying reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment on its plans. A spokesperson shared that the carrier is in discussions with union representatives from all of its contract groups to negotiate cost reductions to help offset an estimated billion-dollar cost of overstaffing that it faces as the moment.

The company added that the workgroups that approve these reductions will receive protection from furloughs for the whole of next year. Ultimately, the goal is to preserve every job at the firm.

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Southwest boeing 737 max grounded getty images
Southwest has been facing difficulties with several of its planes being on the ground this year. Photo: Getty Images

Ongoing challenges

The spokesperson added the following in the statement to Simple Flying:

“Unfortunately, we have not made meaningful progress in our discussions with Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), and Southwest sent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) notices to Employees in our Mechanics and Related, Appearance Technician, and Facilities Maintenance Technician workgroups.”

Altogether, 403 employees received WARN notices. Moreover, an extra 1,503 workers represented by AMFA who could be affected once those furloughed exercise their seniority to fill other bid positions received “a notice of potential impact.” The involuntary furloughs will be actioned on January 25th or within 14 days after, unless the airline reaches cost-saving agreements or the government enacts a suitable Payroll Support Program extension.

Southwest 737
The airline would be hoping that more flights take off next year. Photo: Getty Images

Agreements not reached

The representative also shared the following from Russell McCrady, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations.

“We have been engaged with our unions since early October seeking pathways to help us reduce our costs, and it is unfortunate that we had to move forward with this outcome, as the affected Employees are valued members of the Southwest Family. We are not closing the door to further discussions, but we need agreements to be reached to help us save these Employees’ jobs and address the extremely challenging economic conditions we face.”

Above all, passenger demand continues to remain low as the world continues to face the challenges of the pandemic. There is hope that the introduction of a vaccine can improve conditions next year. However, it is still hard to predict how quickly consistent recovery will occur within the aviation industry. So, unless there is additional government support to cover the labor costs, airlines will continue to review their staff numbers.

What are your thoughts about Southwest Airlines potentially laying off over another 400 employees? Do you see the dire conditions in commercial aviation market continuing into next year? Let us know what you think of the  current situation in the comment section.