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More than 1 in 4 Southwest Airlines employees choosing long-term leave, permanent separation

Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, Southwest Airlines is offering its employees to leave the company for an extended period of time or permanently.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020, file photo, a sign reminds travelers to take safety measures against the new coronavirus as they arrive for flights out of Love Field in Dallas. In a report, Thursday, July 2, 2020, the government is recommending that travelers wear face coverings during air travel and says airlines should consider limiting capacity on planes to promote social distancing. But it stopped short of making new requirements. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

DALLAS — More than 25% of the Southwest Airlines workforce is planning to choose long-term leave or permanent separation as part of a cost-saving measure offered by the company in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Southwest Airlines introduced Voluntary Separation Program and Extended Emergency Time Off options for its employees.

In total, 16,895 employees said they wanted to use these voluntary programs, which is 28% of the workforce. Nearly 4,400 elected the buyout option, and about 12,500 employees said they were interested in an extended leave.

Employees taking the buyout program would be permanently separated from Southwest Airlines. They would receive a cash payment, travel privileges for four years and one year of health coverage.

Employees taking extended leave will be able to work for the company after a minimum of six months away from the job. This will include a continuation of all benefits, travel privileges and health coverage. The separated employees will receive partial pay for each month off. 

Southwest Airlines plans to grant all requests for the buyout, according to the company. There isn't an indication of how many employees will be allowed to take the extended leave. 

Southwest Airlines will reveal more information during its second quarter performance report on Thursday.

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