Southwest Seniority


New member
Jul 1, 2002
Total Time
I am a military pilot with about one year left until separation. I am doing my homework and researching several companies. Whenever I start thinking harder about Southwest, a couple concerns always come to the front of my mind. I know Southwest is an awesome company and they have proven themselves during these times of airline industry financial troubles; however, my only concern is the benefits of seniority at Southwest versus several of the other majors. Every Southwest pilot I speak to brags highly of their company and their job; however, every Southwest pilot I know is fairly junior (recently separated from the Air Force). I realize that the pay, although excellent, does not compare to several of the other majors, but I am primarily concerned with the other benefits, such as work hours, time off, etc. Do senior Southwest pilots enjoy the rewards that are found at other majors? If anyone has any information comparing seniority benefits between Southwest and other carriers, I would greatly appreciate their thoughts.



Well-known member
May 13, 2002
Total Time
20K >
Unless something monumental changes in the next full section 6 negotiations, you will not have a UAL, DAL or AA type lifestyle as a senior pilot.

We fly one type of AC (at least for now). It is a short to medium range aircraft. It is not a B-747, 777, 767, MD-11 or anything similar that flies 2500+ miles regularly.

You will not have a hot crew meal brought to you by the 'A' on china.

You will not have a crew bunk or FC seat to 'unwind' after 5 hours in the chair during cruise.

As far as the compensation, retirement and other benifits; that is an evolving issue and it's reasonable to assume that they will improve over time.

Now ... for what you will have...

If you are a line pilot (and not a Check Airman, Chief Pilot or other management type) you will have the chance to fly AMs or PMs

You will work anywhere from 8 to 12.5 hrs on average.

You will fly between one and six legs per day ... unless you are in DAL/HOU flying the Texas 2 Step then it can be as much as 8 legs per day.

You will average 15 to 16 days off per month.

You can bid reserve and hope to stay at home all month ... I know because I do this from time to time to chip away at the 'honey do' list.

If you ever face furlough at this airline ... I'd be willing to guess we are in another World War !

You will be eligible for upgrade after 4 to 7 years depending on the base of your choosing.

You will have the chance to make a difference.

You will work with some of the most team spirited folks in the industry.


Just another number
Nov 26, 2001
Total Time
Dittos on what PSL said. However, last month 45% of our flying lines had 18 or 19 days off!


5 Star Senior Member
Nov 26, 2001
Total Time
I have 17 days off this month and I've been here 8 months.

SWA has 400 + planes on order with deliveries planned by 2012. That means they need to hire aprox. 4000 + Pilots between now and then.

700 Total airplanes with 9000 Pilots by 2012 should excite anybody!


Long Enough Member
Apr 27, 2002
Total Time
Here is an interview from ALPC with Kenneth Giles, Director of Flight Operations.

In May, Gile described SWA’s pilot hiring and initial training procedures to ALPC’s Stephanie Stephens.

ALPC: First, how many pilots do you expect Southwest will hire in 2002?
Gile: We’ve hired 174 pilots so far this year and are looking to hire approximately 250 total for the year. Our hiring is predominantly based upon fleet expansion, of course.

ALPC: In that case, what is your current aircraft acquisition schedule, and how does it impact your rate of hiring?
Gile: We’ve taken on 14 new aircraft this year and retired three. We do planning based on Boeing delivery schedules each year as well as to cover attrition and pilot retirements. Obviously, since Sept. 11, our growth has slowed, but it’s beginning to pick up again. In an average year, Southwest grows its capacity by eight percent.

ALPC: What are Southwest’s pilot minimums?
Gile: Our minimum requirements are 2,500 total hours or 1,500 turbine, including a minimum of 1,000 hours in turbine aircraft as the pilot in command. Southwest considers only pilot time in fixed-wing aircraft, and we do prefer a four-year degree. We’re proud that at Southwest, all pilots who meet the minimum qualifications are invited for interviews.

It’s important to note, though, that to meet medical qualifications, the applicant must possess a current FAA Class I medical certificate and pass an FAA-mandated drug test.

ALPC: What is the current type-rating requirement at Southwest?
Gile: For many years, Southwest required pilots to have a B-737-type rating before applying, but in May of 1999 we decided to eliminate that requirement, allowing pilots to apply and have an interview without the rating. We do ask that pilots acquire their type rating within six months from the job offer in order to receive a class date assignment.

ALPC: How do pilots obtain SWA applications?
Gile: Applicants may write us at Pilot Recruitment, Box 36644, Dallas, TX 75235, or go to the Web site at

ALPC: What does the Southwest pilot interview process involve?
Gile: Interviews are currently held only in Dallas. We want to make the experience a pleasant one, in keeping with our overall philosophy of this being a great place to work.

Applicants aren’t tested at this time, but each prospective pilot meets with each of two line pilots and a representative from our People (human resources) department. We want to get to know an applicant, so we don’t ask technical questions at this juncture.

We’ll also check that all phone numbers and references on the application are still current, so we can conduct extensive background checks. Candidates should also bring their logbooks.

ALPC: What advice would you offer a pilot on his way to a Southwest interview?
Gile: My best advice is to just be yourself, for it’s the real you we want to see. Don’t think too much about how you think we want you to answer the questions, but answer as you really think you should.

ALPC: Who makes the final decisions on pilot hiring after the interviews are done?
Gile: Candidates are evaluated by our Decision Committee, comprised of chief pilots and other executives from Flight Operations. This occurs about four weeks after the interview process is over.

We don’t have quotas here; we choose those pilots who we feel have the best chance for success at Southwest. We notify successful candidates approximately a week after the board has made its decision.

ALPC: Once hired, what can a new SWA pilot expect during training?
Gile: Most importantly, we expect pilots to work hard and maintain a good attitude. They can expect to train for six weeks, including IOE (initial operating experience). During the first three weeks of ground school, pilots have homework for the next day. Classes are led by an instructor, but are computer based. Students sign up for sims, when those are available, for training in procedures. Instructors have first priority.

Plus, new-hire pilots’ spouses are invited to join the pilots for the first two days for company orientation, where they also learn about company benefits.

ALPC: Are pilots paid during this time and does Southwest cover expenses?
Gile: Pilots receive basic pay, and per diem begins when they’re flying from their assigned base. We pay for hotels and they pay for meals. We provide books, but pilots buy their uniforms. They also purchase a flight bag and suitcase at a reduced price.

ALPC: What follows ground school?
Gile: After ground school, pilots undergo CPT (cockpit procedures trainer) training, with four sessions in the 737-200 and -300 CPTs. They take four sim rides, one in the –200, three in the -300. There’s a proficiency check followed by line-oriented flight training (LOFT), for four hours in the 737–700 simulator. Sim training takes an entire day, with new hires training in four-hour blocks. Pilots also undergo six observation legs in the jumpseat before sim training and after LOFT.

By the way, Southwest is a leader in Crew Resource Management (CRM) training, which is designed to increase the effectiveness of crew coordination and flight-deck management, and we place a heavy emphasis on sim training. We were the first to install an aircraft windshear detection system in flight simulators and to have windshear training required during recurrent sim sessions.

ALPC: When initial training is completed, what’s next for a new Southwest first officer?
Gile: After training and IOE, all new Southwest pilots get a hard line for the first month. Then, most of our pilots spend one to three months on reserve but they can pick up additional trips.

ALPC: Where will new hires be based?
Gile: Southwest’s pilot bases are located in Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Oakland, Orlando, and Phoenix. There are senior people at all our bases, and yes, a pilot can commute, if he or she chooses, from Day One.

ALPC: Can you summarize SWA’s current pilot pay scales and benefits?
Gile: At Southwest, where we encourage pilots to save fuel, we base pay on trips rather than hours. A trip is 243 miles, averaging approximately 55 minutes. That figure is derived from the inaugural Dallas to Houston flight. If a trip is delayed, additional compensation applies.

Most lines are around 90 trips per month, but pilots can always pick up additional trips if they desire. Pay varies depending upon both a pilot’s hire date and stock options. In the first year, a first officer will make $3,101 per month.

Profit sharing began in 1974, and was at almost 12 percent in 2001. Southwest also offers a 401(k) savings plan, matching dollar-for-dollar each pilot’s contribution, up to seven percent. Pilots may purchase stock at a 10-percent discount, and insurance plans include medical, dental, and life.

ALPC: When do flying benefits start for new-hire pilots and their families on Southwest and other carriers?
Gile: An important question, of course. Benefits begin immediately at Southwest for the spouse and children under 21. Benefits on other carriers vary by carrier and are subject to change. Eligibility can range from three months to a year.

ALPC: What makes the pilot job at Southwest unique?
Gile:Since we serve a relatively small number of airports with high frequency, pilots obtain a high level of airport and airways familiarity. Our short haul and high flight frequency approach to operations is really conducive to high pilot proficiency. Our pilots average 35 to 40 takeoffs and landings per month; that’s a lot of valuable experience! But the other side of the coin is that there’s very little inactivity when flying; instead, there’s constant attentiveness to flight progress.

Plus, we have the best cockpit commonality of any U. S. airline, so all our pilots are qualified and trained to fly every plane in our fleet.

ALPC: Finally, what is the most important characteristic a candidate can possess in terms of predicting a promising future at Southwest?
Gile: This company is all about a great attitude. It’s what makes us special in the industry. Some people call it our spirit. We want people who enjoy working with other people, who can be part of a team and who understand the Golden Rule.

Some of these qualities may not be so easy to explain, but here at Southwest we know them when we see them. Those same traits are excellent predictors for success in the cockpit at Southwest Airlines.


Well-known member
Feb 14, 2002
Total Time
I read in the contract proposal that the company is offering, among other things, more time off per month:

A primary factory affecting schedule quality is the number of work days and hard hours flown in a month. SWAPA has proposed targets for reducing average scheduled hard hours in a month. We propose the following targets for average work days:

13.45 work days - 31 day month
13.00 work days - 30 day month
As part of a new extended contract, the Company would be willing to increase the current contractual rigs, to provide the following industry-leading standards:

Duty-Hour Ratio - .74 TFP for each hour on duty or fraction thereof. (Effective 9/1/02)
Duty Period Minimum - 5.0 TFP (no change).
Trip Hour Ratio - 1.0 TFP per three hours (3:00) away from domicile (report to release) or fraction thereof. (Effective 9/1/02)
Average Daily Guarantee - 6.5 TFP per day per pairing. (Effective 1/1/03) (To be split for open time pairings, in accordance with existing practice for THR).

Does that mean they TRY to write all 13-day or less lines?
What assurance does anyone have that they will actually do this?
Also, does this reduce the monthly guarantee or is there a guarantee at all?