Southwest Call Center to Close

Southwest Call Center to Close

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Southwest Airlines will close its Salt Lake City phone-reservation center and two others following a decline in call volumes as more customers make travel plans online.

The low-cost carrier said Tuesday is also would close call centers in Dallas and Little Rock, Ark., at the end of February.

The 1,900 employees will be allowed to relocate to one of the remaining six call centers. The airline did not say how many employees it expected to lose.

There's about 735 people employed at the Salt Lake City reservation center.

Southwest estimated it would cost $20 million to $30 million in the first quarter of 2004 to consolidate its reservations centers and said only that future savings from the closures "may exceed that amount."

Southwest officials said the airline sells more than half its tickets on its Web site. The company recently announced it was ending a double-credit promotion for buying tickets online, a promotion that began when the Web site was still in its infancy.

Chief executive James F. Parker said the Dallas-based airline was balancing costs and employees "with the way our customers choose to do business with us. Acceptance of online booking has steadily increased over the past several years."

The remaining call centers are in Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque, N.M.

In trading Tuesday afternoon, Southwest shares fell 28 cents to $18.57 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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