16,900 Southwest Airlines employees take voluntary leave

Southwest Airlines saves $400 million due to 16,900 staff taking voluntary leave

16,900 Southwest Airlines employees are taking part in its voluntary leave programmes to help the organisation deal with the financial ramifications of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

The American organisation expects to save $400 (£313) million in employee costs for both a voluntary extended emergency time off and a redundancy programme, which was implemented as a financial solution to avoid pay cuts and job losses.

Overall, 4,400 employees elected to take up the voluntary redundancy programme and are set to leave the business by the end of the year, while 12,500 employees chose the voluntary extended emergency time off programme. Employees who opted in to this programme can take six months of leave at 50% pay.

These measures mean the business will no longer have to make any compulsory redundancies, job losses or make use of the furlough scheme.

Gary Kelly, chief executive at Southwest Airlines, said: “For those employees that elected these programmes, I am immensely grateful for their outstanding support of, and service to, our great organisation. Based on the strong take rates from these voluntary programmes, currently, we do not intend to pursue furloughs and layoffs, or pay and benefits cuts, through year end; however, we will continue to plan for multiple weak scenarios and maintain our preparedness.

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“In a time where much is uncertain, I am even more grateful for the position of strength that Southwest employees have built over the last five decades. While the impact of this pandemic is unprecedented, we believe that demand for air travel will rebound, and we fully intend to be ready and well-positioned when it does.”