Southwest Airlines notifies nearly 7,000 employees that they may be furloughed

Southwest has never laid off an employee in its 49-year history

Southwest Airlines, which has never laid off a worker in its 49-year history, notified 6,828 employees Thursday that they may be involuntarily furloughed next year.

The airline has been negotiating with unions about cost-cutting measures, but due to "a lack of meaningful progress," the furloughs may be necessary.

"We are willing to continue negotiations quickly to preserve jobs if we can achieve the support that allows Southwest to combat the ongoing economic challenges created by the decline in demand for air travel," Russell McCrady, vice president of labor relations at Southwest, said in a statement.

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LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.
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The coronavirus pandemic has crushed the airline industry as traffic remains 65% lower than it was in 2019, according to a letter that chief executives from seven airlines sent Congress last month.

Those furloughed from Southwest would include 1,500 flight attendants, 1,221 pilots, 1,176 customer service agents, and others.

If negotiations aren't successful, then the involuntary furloughs will take effect March 15 or April 1, or within 14 days of the furlough date. Southwest Airlines said the jobs also could be saved by additional government assistance.

US airlines received $25 billion earlier this year as part of the CARES Act, but that money expired at the beginning of October.

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The holidays are providing a brief reprieve for airlines, as the TSA screened 1,176,091 individuals on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which was the highest passenger volume since March.

The increase was worrisome to health officials though, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, commenting that we may see a "surge upon a surge" in coronavirus infections as a result.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.