Southwest plans to start hiring flight attendants again as travel rebounds

Key Points
  • Big airlines are turning their attention to hiring flight attendants and pilots.
  • The move marks a turnaround from last year when companies urged employees to take buyouts.
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-73V jet departs Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 2021.
Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines spent much of the last year worrying about having too many employees after travel demand plummeted. Now they're trying to avoid the opposite problem as customers return and the Covid pandemic's impact starts to abate.

Southwest Airlines is the latest airline to address that issue and is planning to resume hiring flight attendants in the coming weeks, according to note to cabin crews, which was seen by CNBC. A Southwest spokesman said it was too early to determine how many flight attendants it will need.

Rivals including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have recently announced they plan to resume hiring pilots this year, in hopes they will be able to cater to a rise in travel demand in the coming years, while hundreds of aviators near the federally mandated retirement age of 65.

Dallas-based Southwest recently said it planned to recall flight attendants who took temporary leave, at the company's urging, next month.

"In order to support future operational needs, all Flight Attendants have been recalled to work effective June 1, and we will need to hire Flight Attendants in the immediate future," said the staff note.

Southwest has begun reaching out to candidates who had conditional job offers when the pandemic froze hiring last year.

"We are happy to share that the majority of these candidates are still interested in joining our Inflight Family, and this helps us start to rebuild a pool of candidates," said the memo.

The airline is also hiring a few ramp agents and other ground workers.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on Boeing 737 Max groundings
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on Boeing 737 Max groundings