Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-73V (30248/1118) N558WN is seen at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on April 30, 2015. This aircraft is a very recent addition to the carries fleet having been previously operated by Eastar Jet as HL8204. It was originally delivered to Easyjet as G-EZJM.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Southwest Airlines is hiring 500 new ramp workers in several of its busiest markets including Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Baltimore. Southwest has its largest hub at Chicago's Midway Airport.
Southwest's thousands of current ramp employees, who are unionized, handle a variety of demanding tasks, including loading of cargo and passenger baggage on flights, de-icing of aircraft in bad weather and other functions related to aircraft servicing at the airport.
The move to add more ramp workers comes as Southwest is preparing for the busy peak summer travel season just ahead when it plans to add significantly more flights to its schedule.
Southwest is also adding more Boeing 737-800 aircraft which carry more passengers and usually more baggage than do the vast number of Boeing 737-700 model planes in its fleet.
Though a Southwest spokesman wouldn't confirm as much, the move to add ramp workers also may be part of an effort to help normalize relations between Southwest management and its ramp workers, who have been in negotiations for years to get a new contract. A spokesman for Southwest said those contract negotiations still are ongoing.
Dissatisfaction with the slow progress of contract negotiations is believed to have been one of the motivating factors behind Southwest's historic Midway Airport meltdown in early 2014, when some 75 ramp workers did not report to work. The resulting chaos caused 16 Southwest planes filled with passengers to remain stranded on the airport tarmac for hours.
In addition to the matter of a new contract, Southwest ramp workers in Chicago in particular have long maintained staffing has been inadequate to handle the growing amount of traffic at Midway Airport. And avoiding delays in getting baggage boarded on planes and in getting the baggage of connecting passengers from one flight to the next are crucial to Southwest's ability to maintain its on-time arrival performance, which has been improving in recent months.
But in announcing the move to add more ramp agents, Southwest instead preferred to focus on the opportunity the hiring spree presents for 500 lucky individuals. In making the announcement, Julie Weber, vice president of people at Southwest (yes there is such a job title), noted: "We're looking for people who desire more than a 'job.' More than 71 percent of Southwest employees define their work at Southwest as a 'calling'."
Southwest also suggested that candidates for ramp agent jobs could come from all walks of life, including the military, banking and even farmers. The carrier said previous experience in a physically demanding job that required a flexible work schedule in an outdoor environment could be helpful.
Southwest directed applicants to the company's website.
(Lewis Lazare - Chicago Business Journal)