American Airlines is asking its headquarters employees to volunteer at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this summer as the carrier faces an influx of summer passengers due to pent-up pandemic demand.
American, which has its headquarters a few miles from its largest hub at DFW, is asking nonunion workers to give up their free time to help the front-line workers at DFW with tasks such as helping customers in the international terminal and returning wheelchairs.
“As we look forward to welcoming back more of our customers this summer, we know they’re counting on us to deliver a reliable operation and help them feel comfortable as they return after many months away from traveling,” American Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said in a statement. “That’s something our front-line teams are experts on as they regularly go above and beyond to take care of our customers. To ensure they have the support they need this summer and beyond, our corporate support teams will provide additional support at DFW.”
Those headquarters employees, who work in fields such as network scheduling, planning and communications, won’t be paid for the additional shifts and must volunteer outside of their normal job duties. But the airline isn’t requiring employees to put in the extra work, either.
Most of the work will involve helping customers find their way around the airport at entry points, TSA lines and getting off planes. The volunteers will be there to supplement full-time workers such as gate and ticketing agents, and the airline is only expecting to use the volunteers during the busiest period, from June until mid-August.
American Airlines has fewer support staff employees to pull from after a year of cost-cutting to help the company get back on firm financial ground. The carrier cut 30% of its support staff through voluntary separations, early retirements and layoffs of about 1,500 staff members.
But the airline and airports across the country have been stung by a shortage of workers, from wheelchair transport workers to restaurant cooks.
Passenger traffic at airports across the country has spiked in recent months as more people get vaccinated and the global COVID-19 pandemic reaches into a second summer. Just shy of 2 million passengers traveled through security checkpoints at airports across the country on Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration reported. That’s the largest number since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Over Memorial Day weekend, DFW International Airport handled 88% as many departing and landing passengers as it did during Memorial Day 2019, airport CEO Sean Donohue said.
“Memorial Day weekend was very busy out here in DFW for the weekend,” Donohue said last week.
For its part, American is actually planning more flights from DFW this summer than it did in 2019. It also has 219 destinations from the hub airport, more than it did two years ago.