Saturday, July 11, 2015

Southwest flight attendant pact could spur new international routes

Southwest Airlines should operate more efficiently and profitably to international destinations if flight attendants approve a proposed contract later this month, an airline representative said.
Flight attendants will receive more money—3% pay increases in 2015, 2017 and 2019, along with 3% annual bonuses in 2016 and 2018—but the company will get more flexibility regarding work rules, Southwest spokesman Bob Hughes said. “When this agreement comes through, we will be able to address some workday issues that have hampered us a little bit,” he said.

Hughes declined to give specifics, but previous contracts did not focus on international flying, because Southwest flight attendants didn’t do any of it. Southwest was able to get around those constraints—it launched international flying last year—but had to pay heavily for that privilege.

In 2012, Southwest reached a stopgap measure that allowed it to start new service, though it was not a competitive deal for the airline. “It just made it very financially uncomfortable for the company,” Hughes said. He suggested this proposed deal could spur the airline to announce more international routes, though Hughes offered no details on future plans.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 also gave little information about contract terms, but the organization acknowledged it tentatively agreed on longer-duty days. The union also said flight attendants will have enhanced vacation pay, more flexibility to improve “quality of life,” and a 1% annual “ground time compensation” bonus. The union said it is retaining “industry leading” pay and benefits.

“You are going to see an agreement that addresses issues you said were your priority—reschedules, ground time, lineholder protections, as well as the improvements to the reserve system,” Audrey Stone, TWU Local 556’s president, said in a video message to union members.

Most of the flight attendant compensation is guaranteed, but they may earn more if the company does well. Hughes said flight attendants can earn a bonus of up to 1% of their salary if Southwest hits an agreed-upon return on its invested capital target. While he would not give that target, Hughes said the carrier has met that goal in each of the past two years.

Flight attendants will vote on the proposed agreement between July 13-24. If approved, the new contract will expire in May 2019.

(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

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