Southwest attendants vote in favour of 737-800 purchase

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Southwest Airlines' flight attendants have voted overwhelmingly to ratify modifications to their collective bargaining agreement to allow management to purchase and place the Boeing 737-800 in the carrier's fleet.

Over 84% of Southwest's Transport Workers Union (TWU)-represented flight attendants voted in favour of the agreement, which insures a variable pay increase, tied to the company's 2010 financial performance, of at least 2%.

The deal also provides for company-paid training, the formation of a labour-management committee to address any ongoing work rule issues, and a one-year contract extension.

"When Southwest notified us of their intention to consider purchasing these larger aircraft, we recognized the potential benefit for our members, our company, and most importantly our customers," says TWU Local 556 president Thom McDaniel in a statement.

"Adding these larger planes for our customers, along with the pending acquisition of AirTran [Airways], puts Southwest in a strong position for the future. Our members look forward to working with Southwest Airlines to create a smooth transition when adding new planes, new routes, and new workers to our operations."

Southwest first expressed an interest in the 737-800 in August of this year before unveiling plans to acquire AirTran. The carrier is expected to shortly make a decision on an order for the type.