Southwest Airways is providing $ 300 worker referral bonuses because the airline is struggling to fill positions

Travelers inquire about their flights at a Southwest counter at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines introduced new employee hiring referral awards this week as the airline struggles to hire new hires to keep pace with the recovery in travel demand.

“Southwest is seeing a sharp decline in qualified applicants due to the low labor force participation and competition for available talent,” wrote Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer of Southwest, in a statement to employees Tuesday that was reviewed by CNBC.

Southwest employees can earn 20,000 “SWAG Points” – 10,000 on the first day of their referral and 10,000 after that person has completed six months with the airline. These points on Southwest’s internal platform have a taxable value of 1.5 cents each, according to a corporate document that gives the points a value of approximately $ 300. The Southwest Points can be redeemed for frequent flyer miles, gift cards or concert tickets.

The points cannot be redeemed for cash, Southwest said. In addition, each week five referrals from employees with 5,000 points are selected for the referring employee, Weber wrote.

Southwest and other airlines spent much of the pandemic pushing workers to take early retirement packages or unpaid or partially paid time off. Now they are scrambling to hire or retrain staff to meet the recovery in travel demand, which came faster than many airlines expected.

Staff shortages in the aviation industry have led to hours of waiting for customer service lines and increased flight disruptions due to problems such as bad weather this summer. American Airlines and Southwest flight crews have complained about a lack of available hotels or dining options while on duty.

In June, Southwest raised its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.

Southwest didn’t say how many employees it plans to hire. The airline announced earlier this year that it needed more flight attendants and pilots, although job postings include ramp and customer service staff, among others. The incentive program runs until November 20th.

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