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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Southwest Airlines Taps Flight Attendants to Push Wheelchairs For Free

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During the busy holiday travel season, Southwest Airlines is encouraging flight attendants and office managers to assist at airports by pushing wheelchairs and addressing passenger questions.

Employees that volunteer to assist the airline will do so voluntarily and will not be compensated in any way beyond their regular pay.

The Dallas-based carrier said in a statement that putting out a request for volunteer workers was “completely usual” and that it was a follow-up to a similar program over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The invitation to volunteer in select airports during peak seasons is not uncommon at Southwest — in fact, a similar invitation went out to some headquarters-based employees for the peak, Thanksgiving period a few weeks ago,” a spokesperson told Points, Miles and Martinis.

“Providing additional support in airports during the holidays is simply one more way we deliver Southwest Hospitality to each other, and our Customers, during certain peak travel periods.”

Volunteers are needed at 11 different airports across the country, including Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas Love Field, and Newark.

During high travel days, many airlines use volunteer staff to assist passengers with directions and basic concerns, but Southwest has notified volunteers that they may also be required to push wheelchairs.

Airlines and airports, like many other industries, are having difficulty filling low-paying positions such as wheelchair pushers.

Southwest’s chief executive, Gary Kelly, warned earlier this month that the difficult “hiring environment” will limit the company’s capacity to grow earnings in the coming years.

Southwest is on the lookout for 5,000 new personnel, including flight attendants and a variety of ground staff. Although the airline has now filled 80% of those positions, attrition is significantly greater than Southwest anticipated.

Despite increasing COVID-19 concerns, the airline anticipates a robust holiday travel season. However, the Omicron model has yet to make an impact on future bookings, which are still dominated by leisure tourists.

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