US Airways gets 16,500 applicants for 450 jobs

Maybe it's the weak job market or maybe it's a renewed interest in airline careers, but US Airways says more than 16,500 people applied for 450 jobs as flight attendants.

The company says about 700 of the applicants got past phone screening to interviews, and offers have been made to 240.

The company said in a newsletter that went to employees Thursday that the first class of new flight attendants would begin training this week and will graduate in March.

Company spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said the hiring would cover attrition, the replacement of Boeing 737 planes with larger Airbus A321 aircraft, and new service between Charlotte, N.C., and Sao Paulo, Brazil, beginning in May. She said it was not related to a potential merger with American Airlines.

The rush for jobs at US Airways Group Inc., the nation's fifth-biggest airline, follows similar reports from Delta Air Lines Inc. and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines.

Delta, the second-biggest carrier, said last month that it got 22,000 applicants for 300 flight-attendant jobs — two applications per minute, the CEO said — and they'll start flying before the peak summer travel season.

American Airlines, which is operating under bankruptcy protection and considering whether to merge with US Airways or remain on its own, said in November that more than 20,000 people applied after it announced plans to hire 1,500 flight attendants. The new workers will replace more than 2,200 higher-paid veteran employees who took buyout offers to leave. The new hires are expected to start flying in April.

There are about 90,000 flight attendants earning median pay of $37,740 per year, according to the Labor Department. The job, however, has perks including travel benefits.

The Labor Department predicts little or no change in the number of flight attendants between now and 2020.

The nation's airlines employed about 2.5 percent fewer people in October, the last month for which figures are available, than they did four years earlier, according to the Department of Transportation. Airlines have reduced flights and trimmed workforces to save money.