Following the holiday meltdown that thrust Southwest Airlines into the headlines, the company has decided to honor the pilots who helped them get through it.
This week, the airlines announced a $45 million “gratitude pay” for the pilots who continued working, desperate to get passengers to their destinations despite snow storms and system outages. Additionally, other employees who showed up during the stressful time will receive a portion of the bonus, but details have not yet been disclosed.
Labor union TWU Local 556, which represents 18,000 Southwest flight attendants, confirmed that its members had been offered additional bonuses. However, local president Lyn Montgomery is not impressed by the money, describing it as a “small stipend.”
“Although this is a nice gesture, it does not make up for the challenges and mishaps that flight attendants endured,” Montgomery said in a statement.
The estimated costs of the bonus pay will equal about 50% of the pilots’ regular income, excluding sick pay, holiday pay, or vacation time.
Southwest has now gotten a more precise picture of the damage caused by the meltdown. Earlier this month, they announced that over 16,700 flights were canceled between December 21st and 29th. This left passengers stranded in airports across the country. In many cases, their luggage was shipped to their destinations, leaving them without extra clothing, medications, and other essentials. Hotel accommodations were a slow process as Southwest struggled to understand the full extent of the matter. Loss of ticket revenue, refunds, customer compensation, and the “gratitude pay” cost the airlines between $725 million and $825 million.
With employees to pay and refunds still being processed, don’t be surprised if you stumble across a $59 fare sale from Southwest in your email inbox soon.