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Tue, Mar 05, 2024

Southwest Airlines Pausing Hires Through 2024

Carrier Says Current Pilot Base Sufficient Despite Attrition

A memo from Southwest Airlines has begun circulating out on the web describing the company's plans to halt all hiring through the rest of the calendar year, stating that the company's current size is sufficient for anticipated growth and demand.

SWA has already begun rescinding conditional job offers to pilots in its pipeline, with water cooler talk sounding as if those with class dates past April are more likely to be canceled. The carrier offered a consolation prize of moving pilots with a previously issued CJO to the "deferred candidate pool", for use when hiring starts again. 

The news was met with a range of pessimism among the anonymous online pilot base, being at once an unpromising indicator of corporate health, and a validation of rumors about the state of SWA at the ground level. Despite gaining a new contract and some hefty back pay, Southwest pilots have informally and anecdotally reported difficulty padding out their schedules with additional trips. That's long been the hallmark of SWA employment - they may not pay the same big bucks that legacies do, but you can sign on and collect as many trips (up to your legal max) as you want. Even those in the upper half of seniority have been less-than-impressed with the trips on the table, lately. 

That makes sense, since Boeing's 737 MAX 7 remains in bureaucratic limbo along with its larger MAX 9 sibling, Southwest can't go through with growth plans for the rest of the year. Were the MAX program fully successful, SWA would have been getting almost 80 of the new planes throughout this year - but instead they lie awaiting the FAA's blessing to fly, for those that have been completed anyway. Boeing isn't having a great time on its production line lately.

Overall, the carrier will have to make do with what it has on-hand, pushing off new-hire first officer training classes until 2025. The carrier told rejected pilots that they were "slowing hiring across the Company in 2024 to levels at or below our attrition rate" in addition to adjusting future hiring expectations along similar lines. Outsiders noted that Southwest hired almost 2,000 new pilots in 2023, one of the biggest years for the brand, so it may just take some time to digest all that new blood and get everyone up to speed. For those who wanted to wear the zany ties and fly a fleet full of 737s, things will have to wait a year, if lucky. On the upside, everyone else is still hiring for now, the expected wave of retirements continuing on unabated.



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