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Southwest Halts 2024 Pilot Hiring Plans

In a memo, the airline said it would be pausing pilot new hire classes in 2024.

A Southwest 737 in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Southwest is the latest airline to adjust its pilot hiring plans in 2024. The Dallas-based airline is pausing all new hire classes this year, it said in a memo viewed by AirlineGeeks.

“Based on expected capacity growth beyond 2024, we’ve made the difficult decision to suspend Initial First Officer Training classes through the remainder of 2024 and defer job offers, beginning with our April classes,” the memo to prospective candidates said.

A Southwest spokesperson shared that the airline plans to pause new hire classes starting in April.

“Southwest is slowing hiring across the Company in 2024 to levels at or below our attrition rate, and we’ve adjusted Pilot hiring in line with our current business plan. Our published flight schedule is aligned with these staffing levels,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline said it will move pilots with conditional job offers (CJO) to a so-called “deferred candidate pool,” which will be used when hiring recommences. The airline did not provide a specific date to resume hiring.

According to data from FAPA.aero, Southwest hired 1,916 pilots in 2023, one of the highest years on record for the carrier. In January 2024, the airline and its pilots – represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) – inked a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with immediate 29% pay increases.

In a different memo shared by xJonNYC on Twitter/X, the carrier said it now projects to hire 345 pilots this year.

In a Q4 2023 earnings call, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan hinted at reduced hiring plans in 2024. “…we planned in 2024 with head count flat to down as compared with year-end 2023 as we slow hiring to levels that are at/or below our attrition rate that will drive efficiency gains in 2024 with more to come in 2025,” Jordan added.

While several U.S. carriers have slowed previous record-setting hiring trends, Spirit joins Southwest in halting new hire classes altogether. The ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) announced in October 2023 that it would pause pilot hiring indefinitely.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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