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Southwest Airlines may furlough employees for the first time ever

Southwest Airlines has notified one of its unions that it may have to lay off 42 workers in January. It would be the first time in the history of the Dallas-based carrier that furloughs have happened.

Since the pandemic, Southwest and all the other airlines have been bleeding cash.  Southwest has left the middle seat on flights empty unless family members who have been in the same home requested to sit together.  But the move has cost the company dearly.  Some routes have been eliminated.

“Southwest Airlines is currently in discussions with union representatives from all of our contract groups to negotiate cost reductions to help offset the billion dollar cost of overstaffing that we currently face. The workgroups that approve these reductions will receive protection from furloughs for all of 2021. Our ultimate goal is to preserve every job at Southwest Airlines.” the company said in a statement.

But talks with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently broke off without any agreement.  “Without continued conversations, and with no cost-savings agreement in place, 42 Material Specialists received Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) notices on Friday as formal notification that involuntary furloughs will take place in January 2021, unless we reach cost-saving agreements or the government enacts a satisfactory Payroll Support Program extension.” the statement said.”

American Airlines announced in October that it was forced to furlough 19-thousand employees because the Payroll Support Program had ended and had not been extended.

“If you’ve got 50 percent less flights operating you need 50 percent flight crews.” Said Mike Davis, an economist with Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.  “Sooner or later it had to come knock on Southwest’s door.”

Davis says Southwest has been an anomaly, but he also notes the entire hospitality industry has been devastated by the pandemic.​

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