Melding labor groups in airline mergers is never easy — and the Southwest-AirTran combo is likely to be no different.
Southwest plans to take over AirTran’s operations in Atlanta and base the combined company at its headquarters in Dallas. About two-thirds of AirTran’s 8,000 employees are based at its Atlanta flight hub, AJC staffer Kelly Yamanouchi reports.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that “people may have to change locations, people may have to change jobs.”
AirTran pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and others are likely to get higher pay at Southwest, but in the meantime their unions must work out contract issues and seniority list integration — always a thorny topic with airline workers, since seniority affects pay, benefits and scheduling, Yamanouchi writes.
“There’s so much at stake in terms of their salaries,” said Barry Hirsch, a professor specializing in labor economics at Georgia State University. Pilots and flight attendants have complex contracts because of the intricacies of airline crew scheduling, he noted.
About 83 percent of Southwest employees are represented by unions, while that figure is about 50 percent at AirTran, including pilots, flight attendants and mechanics, Yamanouchi reports. So the deal is likely to lead to increased unionization among AirTran employees as they join Southwest’s unions.
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