US Airways Spurs Job Rush as 16,500 Vie for 450 Vacancies

US Airways Group Inc., the carrier seeking to merge with AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, received more than 16,500 applications for 450 flight attendant positions in its biggest hiring push for the job since 2010.

About 700 applicants have advanced to the interview stage and 240 offers have been made, US Airways said yesterday in its weekly employee newsletter. The influx echoes the rush for flight-attendant jobs at Delta Air Lines Inc., which said last month that its 300 openings attracted 22,000 candidates.

Flight attendant positions, which are typically lower paid, are attracting a surge in interest as exotic alternatives in a still weak labor market, said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University. The U.S. unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent in December after the November figure was revised up from a previously reported 7.7 percent.

“It’s not your dream job but it’s a job,” Chaison, who is based in Worcester, Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview. “Particularly when there are so many people graduating from colleges who are having difficulty finding jobs, the flight attendants position is suddenly looking very nice. You travel. It’s exotic.”

The first round of new US Airways flight attendants started training this week, said Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman. She said the airline began accepting applications in November and will continue to review candidates through February.

‘Astounding’ Interest

“The interest around it has been astounding,” Mohr said of the positions in a telephone interview.

In particular, US Airways is looking to hire speakers of Hebrew or Portuguese to work on its flights to Tel Aviv and Rio de Janeiro, and for service to Sao Paulo scheduled to begin in May, she said.

Opportunity for international travel can be a big draw for flight attendant candidates, Chaison said.

“Young students are willing to try a lot of things and a flight attendant job is the epitome of a non-routine job,” he said.

Tempe, Arizona-based US Airways drew 14,000 applications for the 420 positions it posted two years ago. The airline has no plans to hire more flight attendants beyond the 450 advertised positions, Mohr said. Delta has said it may expand its latest round of hiring to as many as 400 positions.

U.S. passenger airlines employed 384,310 workers in October, down 1.3 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said in December. October’s total, the latest month for which federal figures are available, was the lowest since May 2011.

US Airways, the fifth-largest U.S. carrier by passenger traffic, is pursuing a tie-up with No. 3 American as that airline restructures in bankruptcy. A merger would create the world’s biggest airline.

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