World's largest airline ramps up hiring; gets slammed with applications

Advertisements for the first airline jobs available in months are real eye catchers.

"Though it comes with plenty of baggage, this job can be quite uplifting," reads a job description on Delta's web site for a baggage handler and ramp operator.

The carrier expects to receive upward of 65,000 applications for around 1,000 openings at airports across the country, Richard Anderson, the airline's chief executive, reported recently on a weekly recorded message to employees. Even so, Anderson said this overwhelming response -- which is likely to require heavy lifting by the company's HR staff -- isn't unusual. "We usually get literally thousands more applications than we have openings," Anderson told employees.

And these are jobs -- including customer service agent and baggage handler -- that pay $9.82 and $10.04, on average, per hour, respectively.

After 22 straight months of decreasing their numbers of full time workers, some airlines are hiring again, and the competition is stiff.

A poor economy and sharp drop in the number of travelers forced carriers in recent years to lay off large numbers of their employees, with U.S. airlines reporting 4.1% fewer workers in April this year when compared with a similar period in 2009, according to data compiled by the Department of Transportation. The total number of people employed full time by airlines in the U.S. overall, on average, fell 4.5 percent from 404,200 in 2006 to 386,000, according to the Transportation department.

But passengers are returning to the skies, with Delta today reporting its largest quarterly profit in a decade thanks to increased demand for seats, especially from business travelers. The airline said second-quarter net income was $467 million, compared to a loss of $257 million in the same period year.

Consequently, some airlines, including JetBlue Airways, AirTran Airways and Delta, are recalling furloughed pilots and plan to hire more this year. Others, such as SkyWest Airlines and Mesa Air, are interviewing flight attendants at various locations nationwide.
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