Southwest giving staff referral bonuses as part of hiring push

Southwest employees will be rewarded if they refer an applicant that is later offered a job

Southwest Airlines is looking to boost its workforce to keep pace with the rapid resurgence in air travel and is turning to its employees for help. 

The airline – which needs to "hire in large numbers" in order to support its growing business – is asking employees to encourage potential applicants that share in the company's value to apply. 

Employees will be rewarded if they refer an applicant that is later offered a position, the carrier told FOX Business. 

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Southwest is "engaging our workforce by formalizing this referral process through our internal recognition program that allows employees who have opted-in to use earned points for additional travel privileges, gift cards, and merchandise," the carrier said in a statement. 

For instance, employees can receive 20,000 "Southwest Airlines Gratitude {SWAG} Points" if a referral is offered a position and completes six months with the carrier," the airline said, adding that those points can be redeemed online. 

SWAG points are not added to an employee’s paycheck as compensation, but, instead, as taxable income. The taxable value of each SWAG Point is about 1.5 cents, according to the carrier. 

Southwest said it has a 50-year history of "encouraging its employees to "bring others into the Southwest family." 

However, the recent push comes as passengers rush back to airports nationwide, with airport screenings hitting new pandemic-era highs. However, airports are scrambling to play catch up after being crushed by the pandemic.

Although the resurgence of leisure travel is a positive sign for the industry, airlines have thousands of fewer workers than they did before the pandemic.  

Earlier this month, the U.S. set another recent high mark for air travel even as the nation continues to face a fresh load of coronavirus infections fueled by the delta variant. 

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On Aug. 1, more than 2.2 million people going through airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration. 

"It was the highest checkpoint volume since the start of the pandemic," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.