Airlines & Airports Rich Thomaselli September 25, 2021
Southwest Airlines incoming CEO Robert Jordan had an eye-opening experience recently at, of all places, Whataburger.
Going through the drive-thru at the fast-food chain, Jordan found something peculiar stapled to his bag.
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And it wasn’t the receipt.
“They are stapling a job application to the sack of food that every single person coming through the drive-thru gets and you go: ‘That’s what it’s come to,'” Jordan said, according to Yahoo News. “It has become, to me, sort of the symbol of the job market that we live in here – there’s so much competition.”
Jordan wants to hire some 10,000 workers over the next year after Southwest suffered a disastrous summer of cancellations and delays due to a perfect storm of bad weather and a lack of staff.
The next CEO, who will take over on February 1, 2022, desperately wants to avoid a repeat of that but might be stymied by the current employment climate.
The airline is about halfway to its goal of hiring 5,000 workers this year and has already trimmed its schedule for the rest of 2021 to avoid further service shortfalls. The airline, and others like Spirit and American, set out to operate an ambitious schedule over the summer to try to recover revenues lost during the coronavirus pandemic, but a shortfall of staff exacerbated operational issues.
“The next question is the March schedule. We plan to meet that but if we find ourselves not able to hire to meet that we’ll go back and look at modifying the schedule,” Jordan said in an interview with CNBC. “What we’re not going to do is we’re not going to repeat last summer.”
Jordan said the airline is doing everything it can.
“We’re pulling out every stop,” Jordan said. The airline raised starting pay to $15 an hour and has been offering retention bonuses, referral bonuses as well as additional pay for certain markets with higher costs of living like Denver, he said.
But he remains confident that the worst of the pandemic is coming to an end.
“The holiday bookings are holding up really well,” Jordan said. “It feels like we are on the backside of this delta wave.”
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