After cancelling thousands of flights in recent weeks, Southwest Airlines is now offering incentives for staff to work longer hours and additional shifts, ahead of an anticipated spike in demand for travel.
In an attempt to avoid further flight cancellations due to staff shortages, Southwest has pledged double pay for staff willing to pick up open shifts over the early July period, according to a company memo sent out on Monday.
“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,” Alan Kasher, Southwest’s executive vice president of daily operations, wrote in the memo, titled “We Need Your Help This Holiday Travel Week.”
“To address the situation for the short term, we will be incentivising our Ops Employees during this busy holiday travel week by increasing overtime pay from July 1 through July 7,” he said.
Between last Friday and Sunday, Southwest canceled around 600 flights and delayed over 4,000. Fox Dallas noted this represents almost 40 per cent of the airline’s total flight schedule for the weekend.
The cancellations were due to “convective thunderstorms” across most of the airline’s main routes, affecting Denver, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, the Gulf Coast and Florida, a spokesperson told Fox Business.
Unlike other airlines whose main routes derive from one or two hubs, Southwest operates from numerous, therefore an issue as large as this impacts the airline on a far more significant scale.
Southwest will also offer double pay to ground and cargo operation employees, according to spokesman Brian Parrish.
Despite these pleas from the airline, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) told its members it failed to reach an incentive agreement with the company as pilots are asked to pick up extra flying.
The association said Southwest was “overselling a schedule that they absolutely cannot fill” and even if pilots were paid double, it would be “inadequate and they would ultimately be paying the same double time costs given the current state of the operation.”
Currently, 900 pilots are coming back from being furloughed to be re-trained, however, during the July weekend the airline will still lack in pilots.
While Southwest Airlines has attributed the delays only to the weather and technical issues, Casey Murray, president of SWAPA said the pandemic continues to play a large role as pilot shortages loom the company. However, a Southwest spokesperson said that reason would be inaccurate.
“We have the pilots. We just don’t have the pilots trained currently,” Murray said.
Southwest airlines is not isolated in this case, as its competitor American Airlines was also forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to staff shortages and maintenance issues a week ago.