MIAMI – Following the announcement earlier this week of 7,000 potential furloughs throughout Southwest Airlines (WN), the airline on Thursday announced that it would furlough 556 employees primarily based at Denver International Airport (DEN) in Colorado.

The carrier says the the furloughs will be necessary unless it can reach an agreement with four unions on cost-cutting measure or obtain more federal assistance from Congress.

In a letter sent under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Julie Weber of WN said that the “involuntary furlough will take place next year unless we reach cost-saving agreements.”

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 reg: N928WN departing for HOU at MIA Photo: Brent Foster – @5starflight

A Broad Reduction

The airline has long prided itself on never laying off or furloughing any workers since 1971 but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought harder times on the aviation industry than 9/11 in terms of traveler numbers forcing all airlines, including WN, to adapt to survive.

Southwest Airlines has duly participated in the Payroll Support Program which provided US$32bn to the aviation industry under the CARES Act but the funding expired at the end of September.

The carrier has since implemented a voluntary separation program, an extended emergency time off program, and pay cuts for managers along with non-union employees.

Despite the struggles brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the furloughed workers will perhaps as air travel picks up following the vaccine return to a stronger airline with an enhanced route network now including Miami (MIA).

Featured image: Southwest Airlines