Southwest Air Dangles Referral Incentives in Push to Hire 4,500
(Bloomberg) -- Southwest Airlines Co. is offering an employee incentive program to help boost applicant referrals as the carrier struggles to hire 4,500 workers in a tight job market.
The airline is seeing “a sharp decline” in qualified job seekers as it vies with other companies to attract workers amid “low labor-force participation,” Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer, told employees. The incentive plan, which consists of points in an internal rewards program, started Tuesday and runs through Nov. 20.
“We know many of you feel the strain on our operation as we quickly staff to meet the increase in travel demand,” Weber said in a memo seen by Bloomberg News. “Even with our efforts in this space, recruiting is a challenge across the board.”
Southwest’s move reflects the push by U.S. airlines to ramp up hiring after a surge in domestic leisure travel, as consumers return to the skies following more than a year of staying close to home. Delta Air Lines Inc. has said it will hire 5,000, while American Airlines Group Inc. is adding 800 flight attendants and 1,350 pilots this year and next.
Daily U.S. passengers are averaging about 79% of 2019 levels over the last week, based on people passing through security checkpoints at airports. The comparable figure for the first three months of the year was less than 50%.
Southwest’s internal rewards program, known as SWAG, enables employees to buy trips, gift cards, catalog items and other goods. The Dallas-based airline raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour on Aug. 1 to help retain and recruit additional workers, a change that affected about 7,000 existing employees.
“We’ve flipped the switch on the ‘hiring machine’ and we’re not turning it off,” Southwest Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly told employees in a weekly note Aug. 9.
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