Southwest Airlines Hiring 120 Pilots As Recovery Continues

Southwest Airlines is coming back, and the airline is focused on having the staffing it needs in a post-crisis world. To that extent, the airline will be opening up positions for roughly 120 pilots. Southwest is not the only carrier hiring pilots in 2021, but it is further evidence of the ongoing recovery in the American aviation industry.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is moving full steam ahead into the recovery with pilot hiring. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is hiring for pilots

Southwest Airlines has announced that it is resuming pilot recruitment. Bob Waltz, Vice President of Flight Operations at Southwest Airlines, announced that the airline is resuming pilot recruitment ahead of bringing on the next class of new hires in December. Roughly 120 positions will open up to fill two new hire classes in December.

The postings will go live on July 15th and remain open until August 1st. Candidates should apply at this link under the “Pilot – First Officer” job posting from Thursday onwards.

Southwest Pilot
Southwest will open roughly 120 positions for pilots. Photo: Southwest Airlines

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Pilots are proving key

In 2020, nearly every airline in the United States had too many pilots for its operations. However, deciding what to do around pilots is a huge decision for airlines. Unlike other areas of airline operations, pilots have to keep up with strict recency requirements.

While airlines were able to furlough or lay off some staff and bring them back as needed, the calculus is not as easy around pilots. Keeping pilots out of the cockpit can lead to a backlog later when airlines are trying to get back up and running. While inducting new gate agents or office personnel may require just a few steps, some pilots may need to head back to the simulator.

Southwest Airlines had a significant number of canceled flights last month. Some of those disruptions were a result of not having enough available pilots to handle the schedule, especially when there are operational disruptions. However, Southwest was far from the only airline that had to face those issues in 2021. Other carriers, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have also faced high-profile issues surrounding crew availability, leading to plenty of operational disruptions.

Southwest Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest is also bringing on the 737 MAX

Southwest Airlines has huge plans with the 737 MAX. Next year, it will take a firm 64 737 MAX 7 aircraft and has options to take on 40 more MAX 7s or MAX 8s. While the final tally of MAX 7s versus MAX 8s the carrier will take is unclear, the airline could take up to 104 new jets next year.

Considering firm orders and options, Southwest could take on 100 new jets in 2023 and 86 each in 2024 and 2025. Considering the 30ish 737 MAX aircraft it expects to take this year, by the start of 2024, the airline will have added 400 new aircraft without necessarily removing an equal number of existing 737 Next Generation aircraft from its fleet.

Southwest 737 MAX Getty
Southwest Airlines is also heavily betting on the 737 MAX. Photo: Getty Images

All that is to say that the airline will be growing its fleet, and to support the addition of the new jets, it will need to have enough pilots. While 120 pilots is a roughly small drop in the bucket and relatively little compared to what other airlines are hiring for, it is a good sign for Southwest and the recovery. The airline is now in a position where it will be able to recruit new talent and will likely be able to expand in the next few years as it returns to profitability and can afford to invest in those pilots.

Are you glad to see Southwest Airlines start to hire pilots again? Let us know in the comments!