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Old Jun 19, 12, 5:22 pm   #1
 
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Southwest wants to begin outsourcing its employees

In what seems like a completely fundamental change in attitude from an airline who has historically prided itself on being a great employer and one who has treated it's people well, Southwest is now looking for it's ground operations department (which encompasses ramp, operations, and provisioning) to accept terms on it's next contract to allow for up to 20% of staffing to be replaced by outside contracted employees.

Many Southwest Airlines loyalists would argue that the superior customer service and treatment by Southwest employees are a deciding factor in why they continue to use Southwest. Now some of the very staff who are largely responsible for that quality customer experience may be replaced by employees of 3rd party contracting companies with significantly lower pay rates, and benefits (if any).

I'm just curious how some of Southwest's best customers feel about something like that.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505244_1...ag=mncol;lst;9
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:01 pm   #2
 
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"I'm just curious how some of Southwest's best customers feel about something like that."

How do I feel? Not well, thank you.

It is just further confirmation that the Southwest brand, built by Herb Kelleher and a team of true aviation fanatics, has deteriorated into a business-school-spreadsheet abomination.

Perhaps someday Southwest will get its groove back, but, in the meantime, the management team just continues to sell the seed corn in search of quarterly income for stockholders and for themselves.

That's how I feel.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:01 pm   #3
 
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Ground ops has little or no customer contact, so your perceived degradation of service isn't a factor - and your perspective as a WN employee colors your view. If this move will allow WN fares to return to competitiveness, which is now often lacking, it's a smart action.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:04 pm   #4
nsx
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Originally Posted by num1bearsfan View Post
I'm just curious how some of Southwest's best customers feel about something like that.
I can guess how you feel about it as an employee. As a customer, I have no opinion until I see what Southwest does with this. If the idea is to provide surge capability under supervision of Southwest employees, that sounds low risk and high return (reducing overtime requirements).

I figure that any cost reductions or increases eventually work their way into fares. Therefore what matters is the balance of cost and quality. I have no way to estimate that ahead of time, and possibly no way even after the fact.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:07 pm   #5
 
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Not sure why your link didn't work (or if it's me), but I found it on CBS' website. Here is my attempt at pasting the link:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505244_1...ag=mncol;lst;9

I have been so disappointed in Southwest over the last year or so that I have booked only one paid flight on them. We are using up our RR tickets and booking paid flights mostly on jetBlue - just got the jetBlue Amex and will cancel our SW visa. I check on SW now just out of curiosity.

But I find this news yet another disappointment which only reinforces our decision to use another airline. I hope the employee's union stands up to the myopic corporate leadership.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:27 pm   #6
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Originally Posted by GottaLuvCruising View Post
I have been so disappointed in Southwest over the last year or so that I have booked only one paid flight on them. We are using up our RR tickets and booking paid flights mostly on jetBlue - just got the jetBlue Amex and will cancel our SW visa. I check on SW now just out of curiosity.

But I find this news yet another disappointment which only reinforces our decision to use another airline. I hope the employee's union stands up to the myopic corporate leadership.
It's pretty hard to reconcile that approach intellectually. You want Southwest's unions to fight back on this change yet you spend your money with a 100% non-unionized airline, B6.

http://www.laborunionreport.com/port...00-union-free/
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:40 pm   #7
 
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It's pretty hard to reconcile that approach intellectually. You want Southwest's unions to fight back on this change yet you spend your money with a 100% non-unionized airline, B6.

http://www.laborunionreport.com/port...00-union-free/
My reason for leaving Southwest and going to jetBlue is about how they treat US (as passengers and frequent flyers).

I do hope SW labor union stops the outsourcing for the benefit of those employees.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 6:45 pm   #8
 
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num1bearsfan
I'm just curious how some of Southwest's best customers feel about something like that.
Generally it is not a good idea to try to negotiate a contract through a public customer website for a number of reasons - not the least of which is that it demonstrates how little the Customer really does care.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 7:01 pm   #9
 
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this will be as effective in reducing CASM as replacing the toilet paper at HQ with one ply
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Old Jun 19, 12, 8:32 pm   #10
 
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[SATIRE]It was never our intention to save money or decrease employee count/benefits. But we are now pleased to forceast an extra x million in profit each year as a result. [/SATIRE]

If a company outsources they can either do it to save money, or to make use of someone more specialized/experienced. If outsourced, why can a company receive similar job duties at a cheaper price? the logical conclusion is they are depriving that person from receiving benefits similar to what a full time company employee equivalent would get.

In our area, it's all the rage for schools to try and do this with their bus drivers to save on health insurance and pensions. The bus companies come in, rent the buses from the schools, make their own profit, pay their employees and still beat the school's old operating costs. Turnover goes way up, and morale goes down.

RAMP: Does this mean we'd see less experienced operators at the ramp area? just MAYBE less likely to engage in teamwork and or escalate any issues?

PROVISIONING: Any efficiency loss from less experience?

OPERATIONS: Would this in any way lower ability to operate/recover as quickly in the event of irregular operations? I've seen dozens of instances where Southwest can get flights in and out quickly (10-20 minute turn, getting a flight out right before an airport closure due to weather, etc) while other airlines can't react quickly and have hundreds of people queued up for flight changes. If a contractor provides service for 3-4 airlines, who gets their full attention?

When I think about any airline outsourcing, two recent articles give me cause for concern: June 2012:the (contracted)ring of workers for a baggage handling and maintenance company in San Juan and also fears that a terrorist would have a much easier/quicker time getting access as a contracted employee than as a direct hire. May 2012: a (contracted) Newark airport security provider who employed an illegal immigrant with a fake ID for 20 years.

The most recent WN transit workers 555 contract ALREADY allows third party contractors for airports that have 12 or less departures per day. This new proposal by Southwest is thus definitely a cash grab.

Last edited by expert7700; Jun 20, 12 at 7:30 am.
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Old Jun 19, 12, 9:05 pm   #11
 
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I'm just wondering what other gimmicks Gary will come up with to deal with the underperforming stock.

...maybe he can reduce the weight of on board waste by letting male pax pee out the window and make yellow patterns in the clouds, or instead of Economy Plus, Evo Plus - an extra row of bench seating that gets the plane to 150 seats and maximizes the pax/FA ratio...or how about COS Select - every pax over 300 lbs gets extra knee room, lots of extra knee room, by being offered a Standing Room Only spot in the galley
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Old Jun 20, 12, 3:13 am   #12
 
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no way the union will vote for contract workers, moral at my station is already at an all time low, if contract workers come in southwest will suffer, call outs, protests, strikes, delays, missed bags
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Old Jun 20, 12, 6:05 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by smmrfld View Post
Ground ops has little or no customer contact, so your perceived degradation of service isn't a factor - and your perspective as a WN employee colors your view. If this move will allow WN fares to return to competitiveness, which is now often lacking, it's a smart action.
Ground operations is very much customer contact. An operations agent is the one who is at the podium boarding every flight, making gate announcements, and giving individual attention to special needs boarding passengers. But putting that aside, what goes on behind the scenes and under the wing absolutely plays a role in the customer experience. Believe me when I tell you Southwest employees routinely go out of their way to make things happen that other airlines and certainly contractors would never even bother with. Check into your flight 15 minutes prior to departure somewhere else and see if your bag makes it onto the plane. Come in on a late inbound and see if your connecting flight is holding for YOU anywhere else. The overall workload that we take on and the pace that we do it at is unmatched in the airline industry, but we're happy to do it because we're well taken care of. See if a $9 an hour employee is going to give a flying fart about YOU when he's on flight number 4 for the day. Maybe he'll drive that miss sorted bag across the ramp to meet it's next flight in 2 minutes,.. or maybe he wont. See if that agent at the gate has a smile on his or her face when he/she is worried about problems at home because she has no health insurance.

As an employee, my perspective on things is that of someone who KNOWS. It's not a matter of a colored view. I know what we do, and I know the difference. I've worked at other airlines, and along side other airline employees. I see the contractor people and I see what level of work ethic they have. With all due respect, what do you know? How much time have you spent with airline operations at Southwest?
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Old Jun 20, 12, 7:19 am   #14
 
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here's a recent (but separate) matter being discussed on the Airtran forum

Ramp Outsourcing at 7 AirTran stations


The original poster, wahooflyer, made a great comment at the end of his post: Good luck with the rent-a-rampers, Southwest. You need look no further than the Alaska Airlines/Menzies ramp outsourcing in SEA to see what's going to happen at these small stations. I fly US Airways out of RIC frequently (which has outsourced its ramp at almost all stations) and see bags flying off the carts and lots of other ramp carelessness all the time. That's the kind of people you'll get when you hire a contractor paying $7.50 an hour.

Wahooflyer also pointed out that the most recent WN transit workers 555 contract ALREADY allows third party contractors for airports that have 12 or less departures per day. This is definitely a cash grab.

Last edited by expert7700; Jun 20, 12 at 7:31 am.
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Old Jun 20, 12, 7:38 am   #15
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The overall workload that we take on and the pace that we do it at is unmatched in the airline industry, but we're happy to do it because we're well taken care of.
That was a great post, num1bearsfan. Being part of a winning team is good for everyone. Herb knew that.

As I see it, the problem is that Herb had a big cost advantage over legacy carriers. He was able to share that cost advantage with the employees to create a special kind of company. More recently, fuel hedges provided the cost advantage which was again shared between customers and employees (but not stockholders).

Now Southwest has no cost advantage. Competitors have defaulted via bankruptcy to reset their costs. The likely result is traditional labor strife. Customers have already seen the cutbacks, and you see that reflected in the harsher attitudes of posters here compared to the days of double RR credits on $29 fares.

Yes, we customers recognize business reality. I'm sure employees do too. That doesn't make it any more enjoyable. We sure had a great time while Southwest was on top of the world, didn't we?
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