The airline has struggled to live up to its customer-friendly mandate over the past few years, but better days may be ahead.
Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Free Report built its business on being passenger friendly. Its the airline which does not charge extra for baggage, changing your flights, or getting a non-alcoholic drink onboard. It’s the airline with friendly flight attendants and staff that goes above and beyond for passengers.
Living up to that became difficult during the covid pandemic. The airline did not lay off any workers, but it lost a ton of experienced pilots, flight attendants, and customer service personnel during covid lockdowns. Then, when things began to return to normal it faced canceled flights due to staffing issues, delays for the same reason, and once-friendly flight attendants who had to become the mask police.
It was an unpleasant time when the airline also faced labor problems in the form of a pilot shortage and with a key contract coming due with some ground-based personnel. Now, both issues are moving toward resolution and that has allowed the airline to make some changes for 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP
Southwest Signs New Labor Deal, Adding Pilots
You can’t be the airline famous for treating people well when you lack enough pilots to fly all your routes and you have an unhappy customer service workforce. The company has taken major steps to fix its pilot problem and while the solution has not been quick, it is moving forward.
“I’m really proud to report that we reached pre-pandemic staffing levels in May 2022, which is just a huge milestone. We continue hiring in specific areas, particularly for pilots, and we expect to add over 10,000 employees this year out of attrition,” Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said during the airline’s second-quarter earnings call.
Southwest has also reached a new long-term labor deal with its customer service workers. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents more than 8,000 Southwest customer service employees, recently voted in favor of a new, five-year contract with the airline.
“Our Employees work hard to take care of our Customers every day, and that’s even more evident during this busy holiday travel season,” said Southwest Labor Relations Vice President Adam Carlisle. “I’m extremely pleased we can reward them with this new contract, which demonstrates the value they bring to Southwest and is designed to give us additional efficiencies to operate our airline.”
These two pieces of positive workforce news will allow the airline to expand its service in 2023.
Southwest Airlines Adds New Flights
In 2022, Southwest had to cut service and focus on its core routes due primarily to its pilot shortage. During the coming year, the airline expects to go back into expansion mode. The airline plans to greatly expand its service from Denver specifically, but that’s not the only city which will see expanded service starting in the summer of 2023.
“As of July 11, 2023, the airline will serve 92 destinations from Denver nonstop with a peak schedule of 303 departures a day. This will be the first time any Southwest flight schedule will offer 300+ departures from one airport. Across its route map of 121 airports, Southwest will offer a peak schedule of 4,374 departures a day in summer 2023,” the airline shared in a press release.
Southwest will also add the following flights beginning in July:
Beginning on July 11, 2023, the carrier will offer returning seasonal service daily between: Nashville and Burbank, Kansas City and Milwaukee, Kansas City and Minneapolis
And as of July 11, 2023, these weekend routes operated in June will be offered daily for the summer season, between: Denver and Albany, N.Y.; Denver and Buffalo; Denver and Hartford; Nashville and San Jose; Houston (Hobby) and Pittsburgh; Houston (Hobby) and Sacramento; Las Vegas and Louisville, Ky.; Kansas City and San Antonio, Texas; Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Pittsburgh; and St. Louis and Sarasota, Fla.
“We’re continuing to add flights back into our schedule, providing options for Customers to seek their passions and Go With Heart in planning summer travel,” Southwest Chief Commercial Officer Ryan Green said in a press release.