Southwest Airlines employees can now elect a new payroll deduction: for jet fuel.
Starting this week, the airline's 8,200 workers may give back part of their paychecks to help Dallas-based Southwest buy fuel. A spokesman said 1,500 employees have already kicked in $10,000.
The spokesman said contributions are strictly voluntary and that Southwest isn't short on gas money, although the price of jet fuel has climbed 40% since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
The program got its impetus before Christmas from managers in the airline's ground operations unit, which oversees ramp workers, ticket agents and others. "With the price of fuel so high, we started thinking about ways to help, and we came up with this," said cargo operations manager Matt Buckley.
Although the donations won't dent the airline's $30-million monthly fuel bill, "the message is a neat one," said Colleen Barrett, executive vice president and corporate secretary. "It really stresses a family spirit."
Barrett has agreed to donate $10 a week to the fuel fund.
Buckley acknowledges that the program is unusual. And although Southwest might not be needy, he argues that it is certainly worthy. "We give to our church, we give to our community. Why not give to our company?"
A tax accountant might offer this reason: A gift to Southwest isn't tax deductible.