Southwest weighs schedule modifications, apologizes to employees after complaints

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 jet taxis to the gate after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 2021.

Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines on Friday apologized to staff after their unions complained about grueling schedules this summer and said it was weighing scheduling changes for later this year.

The carrier added more flights back to its schedule compared with some of its competitors, an effort to capitalize on a surge in travel demand.

The increase in bookings was a welcome change compared to “a year ago, but we have to be honest with ourselves: it’s also taken a toll on our operation and put a significant strain on all of you. And for that, I am sincerely sorry,” wrote COO Mike Van de Ven in a staff note, which was seen by CNBC.

Van de Ven said the carrier is “continuing to evaluate our fourth quarter flight schedules, and we’re taking a serious look at flight levels to ensure that our flying aligns with the staffing needed to operate within this more complicated COVID environment.”

Southwest pilots’ union on Thursday said it was considering pickets at U.S. airports over Thanksgiving and Christmas to protest tightly packed schedules, a lack of hotels and food options, and other issues. Flight attendants this week raised similar issues.

“We will not be following our traditional staffing models as we reevaluate where we are in October, November, and December,” he wrote. “You come first.

Southwest declined to comment further. The airline said earlier this week it was struggling to hire new staff and offered bonuses worth about $300 for employee referrals.

Earlier this month, the company cut its revenue forecast, blaming the fast-spreading Covid-19 delta variant fora decline in bookings and increase in cancellations.

This week, Spirit Airlines said it would trim some of its schedule for the rest of the third quarter after more than 2,800 cancellations cost the company some $50 million.

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