Southwest Airlines Is Raising Its Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour and Giving Raises to Over 7,000 Employees

Southwest Airlines is hiking its minimum wage to $15 an hour as travel inches back towards pre-pandemic levels. 

"Southwest continually works to attract and retain the best candidates for open positions," a company spokesperson said in a statement to Insider. "As part of this ongoing effort, Southwest is increasing minimum pay rates so that all hourly employees will make at least $15 per hour."

More than 7,000 current employees will see bigger paychecks as a result of the wage hike, Southwest said. The airline added that it will aim for the boost to take effect by August 1 but that some of its work groups will need to negotiate to implement the change.

The wage bump will affect reservations agents, baggage and cargo handlers, and customer service employees, among others, according to Bloomberg, which was first to report the news. The change will spell out an additional $1.30 an hour on average, Bloomberg reports. 

The announcement comes in the midst of renewed interest in travel, thanks to reduced coronavirus restrictions and the reopening of the economy. It also closely follows a prediction from Southwest CEO Gary Kelly that the carrier likely doesn't have enough planes to keep up with demand in 2022 and 2023. The airline has enough staff to carry it through the summer, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, Russell McCrady, told Bloomberg. 

Southwest is the latest company to struggle finding workers to fill open jobs at existing wage levels. Big names like Amazon, McDonald's and JBS are among those trying to draw new employees with promises of signup bonuses, increased pay and other incentives. Costco boosted its minimum wage to $16 an hour in February. In the same month, Walmart announced it would raise wages for 425,000 workers, although its minimum starting wage would remain $11 an hour.

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