DALLAS (AP) Southwest Airlines, which bucked the trend of layoffs and flight reductions after September 11, plans to hire about 4,000 workers this year.
The help-wanted sign at Southwest contrasts with personnel plans at other airlines. A few are calling back some of the workers they laid off in the fall. None are talking about creating new jobs.
Southwest, based in Dallas, is the only major U.S. airline still making money. The largest carriers, American and United, lost $3.8 billion between them last year.
Southwest, however, was not immune to the slowdown in business travel that started in 2001 or the steep decline in travel after the terrorist attacks of September 11. It put growth plans on hold and delayed aircraft orders.
In December, Southwest announced it would take two new Boeing 737s the first additions to its fleet since the terrorist attacks. But the hiring plans are Southwest’s strongest indication that it believes it can regain its previous double-digit growth.
Southwest, which has 33,000 employees, says it plans to hire 250 pilots, 1,200 flight attendants and 2,600 other workers. Officials said that would match the hiring pace the airline had expected last year.
Southwest said the new jobs would be spread across the 59 airports where it operates and at nine reservations centers around the country.
Officials said the greatest need for workers was in Baltimore, Chicago and Oakland, Calif.
U.S. airlines announced about 100,000 layoffs after September 11.
The actual number of layoffs was closer to 80,000 because some workers took early retirement or left voluntarily, according to the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group.
Very few of those workers have been recalled, and Southwest says it believes it can choose from experienced applicants.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of people who want a second career, and we’re seeing more furloughed flight attendants and pilots,” said Lorraine Grubbs-West, the airline’s director of field employment.
Ron Jackson, a former United Airlines flight attendant and electrician who joined Southwest last year, said the carrier’s stability was a factor.
“We are always made to feel comfortable that we are going to keep our jobs,” said Mr. Jackson, of Orlando, Fla. “I can’t say I was ever worried about that.”
Merrill Lynch analyst Michael Linenberg said Southwest’s ability to avoid layoffs in the fall probably has raised employee loyalty and improved its productivity already considered the strongest among major carriers.
“They tend to have some of the lowest costs in the industry,” Mr. Linenberg said.
“So in times of depressed business, they can make money while others are losing money.