Southwest will pay flight attendants double overtime as it struggles with a staffing hole over the July 4 week

A gate agent wears a Southwest Airlines mask
A Southwest Airlines agent in Los Angeles.

  • Southwest is paying some staff double for overtime shifts in the first week of July, CNBC reported.
  • The airline said the extra pay would boost staff levels and reduce the number of flight disruptions.
  • Demand for travel is rebounding fast but the aviation industry faces a staffing shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines is doubling overtime pay for some staff over the July 4 week as it eyes a huge bump in travel, CNBC reported.

Flight attendants, ground-operations agents, and cargo agents will earn double for picking up extra shifts in a bid to avoid disruptions over the Independence Day weekend, per CNBC.

Demand for travel is rebounding fast as the US economy reopens but the aviation industry faces a staffing shortage after letting too many pilots and flight attendants go during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Southwest has been hit by a series of flight disruptions caused by technical problems and bad weather. It delayed nearly 4,000 flights and canceled hundreds more over a three-day period in mid-June because of a glitch in weather data and a computer-system outage. It also canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend and Monday after airports were hit by severe thunderstorms.

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In a memo to staff Monday, reported by CNBC, Alan Kasher, executive vice president of daily operations at Southwest, said: “We have heard from many of you who are frustrated with our network reliability and irregular operations created by summer storms across many parts of the country.

“To address the situation for the short term, we will be incentivizing our Ops Employees during this busy holiday travel week by increasing overtime pay from July 1 through July 7.”

Flight attendants will get double pay for picking up open shifts over that week, Sonya Lacore, vice president of inflight operations at Southwest, wrote in a separate staff memo Monday, per CNBC. A spokesperson told the publication that ground and cargo operations staff would also get double pay for overtime shifts.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2,066,964 passengers on Monday – 84% of the number it screened on the same day in 2019.

But Southwest is struggling to find enough staff as demand for flights returns. As well as doubling overtime pay, the airline is bumping up its minimum wage to $15 later this year, which it said would boost paychecks for around 7,000 staff.

Still, some pilots who were on leave during the pandemic have yet to be retrained before they can return to work.

“We have about 900 pilots who are coming back from extended time off that are being trained in June and July and we’ll probably slip into August,” Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), told WFAA.

“We have the pilots,” he said. “We just don’t have the pilots trained currently.”

SWAPA told members Monday that Southwest had also offered double pay for pilots during the July 4 week, which it called “inadequate”. The union said that it had not come to an agreement with the airline on pay, CNBC reported.

“It has been clear (since spring!) that our operation was on track for a brutal summer caused by overselling a schedule that they absolutely cannot fill,” SWAPA told members.

“This [July 4] weekend coming up is going to be a true test for the entire breadth of Southwest Airlines,” Murray told WFAA.

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