Why Become a Pilot with Southwest Airlines?
As you may know, the U.S. is in the midst of a pilot shortage. With an aging workforce, an FAA-mandated retirement age of 65, and an ever-increasing demand for air travel, major airlines like United are expected to be short as many as 8,000 pilots by 2023. The good news is that with so many open positions, pilot salaries and bonuses are rising and there has never been a better time to enter the aviation industry as a new pilot.
Southwest differs from other major U.S. airlines in that it does not use a traditional hub and spoke system. Instead, Southwest uses a point-to-point system, traveling directly between many destinations without stopping at a central hub.
They also use a rolling hub system, meaning flight arrivals and departures are spread throughout the day to make the most efficient use of aircraft and airport gates. Southwest pilots are based at one of 11 domiciles: ATL (Atlanta, GA), BWI (Baltimore, MD), MDW (Chicago, IL), DAL (Dallas, TX), DEN (Denver, CO), HOU (Houston, TX), LAS (Las Vegas, NV), LAX (Las Angeles, CA), OAK (Oakland, CA), MCO (Orlando, FL), and PHX (Phoenix, AZ). Pilots bid for their domiciles based on seniority, and the number of opportunities at each domicile is based on demand.
So how much do United pilots make?
Airline pilot salaries depend on a number of factors including experience and number of hours flown per month. Airline Captains and First Officers do not earn a flat annual salary. Instead, they receive an hourly wage for each flight hour flown plus a per diem. As of February 2021, Southwest first officers make $84 per hour in their first year and can work their way up to $191 per hour in their twelfth year. Southwest captains start at $241 per hour and increase to $274 by year 12.
Career benefits for all Southwest pilots include health insurance, disability and life insurance, 401(k) retirement plans with company matching, employee profit-sharing, and unlimited space-available travel privileges for employees and eligible family members.