Southwest plans to hire pilots and flight attendants

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Amid planning for integration of AirTran Airways into its operations, Southwest Airlines has also unveiled plans to hire pilots and flights attendants in 2011.

The hiring is the first time Southwest has added new flight crews since 2008, chief executive Gary Kelly told employees in a recent update that was also filed with US regulators.

"We are tentatively planning to add 150-200 new pilots and 250-300 new flight attendants next year," says Kelly. "We expect to have 100 pilots begin new hire training in the first quarter of 2011, and start rolling into our system in March."

Flight attendant training classes are also scheduled to begin in the first quarter, and will be broken into three classes of 100 participants, he adds.

Southwest has been in talks with both pilots and flight attendants over potentially introducing the larger Boeing 737-800. Prior to the 27 September announcement of Southwest's desire to acquire AirTran, Dallas-based Southwest reached a tentative agreement with its flight attendants union to operate the aircraft, which requires four attendants rather than the three currently necessary on its Boeing 737-300/500/700 variants.

At the time Southwest announced its intent to acquire AirTran, Kelly said Southwest hopes to make a decision soon regarding adding the 737-800 to its fleet.

Southwest expects to legally close on the legal transaction to acquire AirTran in roughly nine months, and expects a 24-month integration period.