Southwest Airlines Co., which last hired flight attendants from outside the company in 2011, received applications at a rate of 80 a minute, amassing 10,000 résumés for 750 openings.
"It was the first time we did that in a while, and of course anytime we do it, it's like opening up the floodgates," CEO Gary Kelly told employees in a recorded message. "We knew it would be the same this time."
Employment at U.S. passenger airlines is showing signs of stabilizing, according to the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The industry's workforce shrank by 0.8 percent to 381,178 in October, the last month for which data were available. That's the smallest decline in 13 months.
The deluge of applications in two hours and five minutes at Dallas-based Southwest also underscores the demand for work even as U.S. economic growth gathers pace. The U.S. jobless rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November, while the economy expanded at a 4.1 percent pace in the third quarter, government data show.
In recent years, other airlines have also seen interest in flight attendant positions. Delta Air Lines got 22,000 résumés for 300 of the jobs in December 2012 and US Airways Group, now a part of American Airlines Group Inc., attracted 14,000 applicants when it hired 420 attendants in 2010.
New hires at Southwest will earn about $24.39 an hour and work a minimum of 66 hours a month, said Southwest spokesman Dan Landson. Hiring will be completed in the next year. Southwest has recently ordered bigger planes and expanded international routes.
Bloomberg news service