Southwest Airlines Halts Hiring Of New Pilots

A year ago Southwest Airlines was so hard up for pilots that they became willing to hire them much earlier bringing them into training when they still had 1,000 hours of flying to go to get their license.

Pilots had retired early during the pandemic. Not as many pilots were being trained and hired. And the pipeline of new pilots was pretty dry. The major pilot union had successfully argued for legislation that makes it both costly and time-consuming to become one. Southwest, like many carriers, found themselves without enough people to fly all of their planes at a full schedule.

What a difference a year makes, and Southwest’s ambitions have been scaled back in the face of financial challenges and Boeing’s challenges. As reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC, Southwest Airlines has paused new pilot training. They will not run any first officer classes from April through the end of 2024.

It was only last month that Southwest Airlines pilots approved a new contract. Late last summer American and United got pilot deals done. It may have been just in time for record-breaking pay, as demand for pilots could be cooling.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. WN cut its capacity guidance during its earnings call a month ago.
    This is just the byproduct of the MAX delivery delays.
    WN accepted Boeing’s news; UA went running to France trying to get Airbus to bump other airline orders.

  2. Their training department is severely backlogged and then of course the Boeing delays have skewed their hiring needs. This isn’t really unexpected.

  3. @SaavyPhlyer – Southwest says they were going to have too many pilots, it’s not that they need to catch up on training

    @Tim Dunn – correct, Southwest has scaled back its ambitions as I write, its own challenges and Boeing’s challenges

    And aircraft delivery delay, lack of planes, means less demand for pilots

  4. @Gary Leff
    Right. With the max delays they will be temporarily overstaffed, but their train department is severely backlogged. They are currently paying pilots to sit at home for months because they do not have the capacity. This has been an ongoing issue for a while now.

  5. I’ve been there 30yrs. Either over staffed or under staffed. They never seem to get the staffing correct

  6. For crying out loud, Gary, enough with the conspiracy theories. Pilot unions–even ALPA–don’t have near the power your ascribe to support your claims. For example, every single pilot union, bar none, lobbied heavily through 2007 to NOT raise the retirement to 65 … all to no avail. Again these past few years, they’ve lobbied heavily to NOT raise it again to 67 … to no avail. Only the FAA saying it needed more research has had any impact, and that might not even matter. In reality, pilot unions have little-to-no away over any actual legislation.

    As far as your claim about raising the requirements to make it harder to get an airline job; again NOT a pilot union thing. After the Colgan crash in 2009, the NTSB report resulted in the creation of FAR Part 117 to address perceived fatigue issues, and raise minimum requirements for Part 121 pilots (due to the Colgan FO’s inexperience considered to be instrumental in the crash).

    Stop pretending that your predetermined “bad guys” are responsible for all the industry’s woes, and do some actual research for a change, before you put pen to paper.

    I’m only surprised that you didn’t use your usual, “Herb was in the room,” to cover your lack of actual fact-finding.

  7. @gary. you are again incorrect in your reporting.

    To start- You get your COMMERCIAL pilots license after completing the training AND flying 250hours. Then, depending on your qualifications you can qualify for a RESTRICTED ATP at 1,000/1,250/1,500hours. Qualificatons being education and where you go to attain your training.

    There are absolutely ZERO pilots in the United states who fly an airliner holding a commercial rating sub 1,000hours. What they have is an R-ATP.

    If you are at 1,000 hours and trying to get your Commercial rating, you did your training very backwards.

    For the love of God, please learn something about what you blog… You continue to be wrong.

  8. When I read the writers comment about a commercial license, I knew he didn’t have an idea of what he was talking about.

  9. An error in flight time requirements could be excused as they are confusing. You have to have X amount of hours, but not really. What is inexcusable as far as writing is the draft of the introductory paragraph. I realize Gary writes a lot, but there must be s better way to say that.

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