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Southwest Airlines ramps up hiring by 16% to ease flight delays, reduce overtime

Southwest Airlines increased the number of workers it wants to hire by 16% to 5,200, part of an effort to ease flight disruptions and reduce overtime, even as the carrier pares service.

The airline wants to add the new employees by the end of November to reduce delays and cancellations, Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said Monday in a message to employees. It has already hired 1,500 new workers toward the goal. The new target, boosted from one set Aug. 18, is intended “to support our future growth,” he wrote.

While Southwest hasn’t fully detailed its plans to cut capacity in November and December, fourth-quarter capacity will be lower than the 2019 level, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told workers in an Aug. 27 memo. The carrier previously said fourth-quarter capacity would match the level of two years earlier.

The Dallas-based airline said last week that it would reduce flying for the final four months of this year, after employees complained they were overworked and flight crews said they were being left without hotels, transportation or food at some locations.

“We know you’re tired and running low,” Kelly told employees Monday. “What I hope you take away from this is that we are 100% dedicated to improving the quality of your workday and setting you up for success. I hope these solutions begin to bring some much-needed relief.”

The airline has been offering incentives to workers for job referrals after seeing a “sharp decline” in qualified applicants. The carrier also boosted its starting wage to $15 an hour.

Southwest shares fell 3.4% Monday to $49.17, part of an industrywide slump as the European Union imposed new restrictions on travel from the U.S.

This article originally appeared on The Dallas Morning News

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