The Dallas-based airline continues to face the consequences of operational issues that significantly disrupted holiday plans of thousands of people.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7BD pushing back from Gate 10 at Oakland International Airport.
Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying

Amid continued fallout from its catastrophic meltdown last month, Southwest Airlines has agreed to compensate its pilots as a way to say “thank you.” The airline also plans to pay other employees who worked through the nightmare.

Southwest said it will pay millions of dollars in bonus “gratitude pay” to employees who worked between December 20th and January 3rd. The penalty of nearly 17,000 flights canceled during the busy holiday travel season surrounding Christmas has reportedly cost the carrier between $725 million and $825 million.

Pilots’ compensation

According to The Dallas Morning News, a spokesperson for the low-cost airline said pilots are among “several operational workgroups” offered the bonus pay for their efforts during the “unprecedented disruptions over the holidays.”

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) of nearly 10,000 pilots voted to accept the pay bonus on Thursday. Including extra pay already given for the holidays and reassignment pay, the union will receive an estimated $45 million in additional pay, equalling nearly $4,500 per pilot.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8H4 N8527Q at approach at Los Angeles International Airport.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Flight attendants’ compensation

TWU Local 556 is the union that represents Southwest’s 18,000 flight attendants. Lyn Montgomery, the President of the association, confirmed that flight attendants were offered some additional pay but did not specify what it entailed. Montgomery said the carrier’s decision to compensate its flight attendants was appropriate but does not redeem the airline.

“At the behest of TWU Local 556, Southwest Airlines agreed to offer flight attendants working during the company’s operational failures a small stipend in addition to their pay. Although this is a nice gesture, it does not make up for the challenges and mishaps that flight attendants endured.” – Lyn Montgomery, President, TWU Local 556

As flight crews are set to receive compensation, Southwest said other employee groups would receive pay but did not immediately identify which employees or disclose how much they’ll receive.

Union groups represent about 83% of Southwest employees, and the airline is currently negotiating seven separate contracts covering most of those union members. Recently, a new agreement was approved for the airline’s flight instructors, and a tentative contract was reached for its facilities maintenance technicians.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 N227WN approaching Los Angeles International Airport.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Moving forward

Employees across the company should see bonuses on their paychecks starting in late February, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Southwest’s CEO Bob Jordan said the airline had tapped an aviation consulting firm to assess last month’s event and provide recommendations.

“We’ve engaged a third-party global aviation consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, to complete an assessment of the event and make recommendations of additional mitigation elements for us to consider, Jordan said. “Our Board of Directors appointed an Operations Review Committee that is working with management to understand the events and help oversee the Company’s response. We commit to keep you updated as we make progress on these efforts as well as additional steps to prevent an event like this from happening again.”

In May, the airline’s pilots will reportedly hold a vote to strike. However, if approved, it would take months before a strike would begin due to federal restrictions controlling the labor relations of airline employees.

Sources: The Dallas Morning News, CNN


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