How To Become A Southwest Airlines Pilot - AeroGuard Flight Training Center - AeroGuard

How To Become A Pilot For Southwest Airlines

Are you considering a career as a professional pilot?

Here’s what you need to know if you want to become a pilot for Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines is a major airline in the United States and is the world’s largest low-cost carrier. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Southwest flies as many as 130 million passengers to 121 U.S. destinations and ten additional countries each year.

With more than 750 Boeing 737 aircraft, Southwest boasts the largest Boeing fleet in the world.

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.

Education and Career Path


In order to become an Southwest Airlines pilot, you must earn a Commercial Pilot License, build the required amount of flight experience, and then earn an Airline Transport Pilot License.

Southwest requires 2,500 hours total flight time in a fixed-wing aircraft or 1,500 hours in multi-engine turbine fixed-wing aircraft. They prefer a minimum of 1,000 hours in a fixed-wing turbine aircraft as Pilot in Command, and they prefer you to have been actively flying for two of the past five years

The amount of time it takes to meet Southwest’s pilot requirements depends on how long it takes you to complete each step of the training process.

A good flight training program sets the groundwork for your career as you build the skills, experience, knowledge, and confidence you need to become a pilot at an airline.

With an accelerated flight training program, a student pilot starting with zero experience can expect to earn the required certifications and build the necessary flight hours to begin training for their Airline Transport Pilot License within 2 years. By following a carefully optimized syllabus, a student pilot will graduate with the following: Private Pilots License, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot License Single Engine, Commercial Pilot License Multi Engine, Certified Flight Instructor, Certified Flight Instructor Instrument, Multi Engine Flight Instructor.

Flight school graduates typically begin their pilot career as a first officer at a regional airline such as AeroGuard’s partner SkyWest Airlines, where they work their way up to captain by accruing flight experience as Pilot in Command. Pilot seniority will play an important role in your ability to quickly move up in regional airlines, which is why choosing a flight school that offers immediate seniority is critical.

After serving as Captain of a regional airline and meeting the Southwest Airlines minimum requirements, you are eligible to apply for First Officer, and begin your career with one of the best airlines in the U.S.

The AeroGuard Advantage


Whether you have your sights set on a career with Southwest Airlines or another major airline, AeroGuard’s Pilot Pathway Program is a great way to start your journey.

A full-time, accelerated pilot training program, the Pilot Pathway Program is designed to take students from zero experience to regional airline-ready in as little as two years. By partnering with SkyWest Airlines, the program offers a streamlined path from flight training, to building flight experience, to a job as a regional airline pilot, all in one place.

Our SkyWest partnership offers many unique advantages for students, including an innovative curriculum, mentor workshops, opportunities to network with SkyWest professionals, and a guaranteed first officer interview with SkyWest.

Following acceptance, you will have some of the highest seniority in your class and the training and experience you will need for a long and successful career. SkyWest pilots are highly regarded in the industry and in addition to guaranteed First Officer Interviews for AeroGuard graduates, SkyWest offers it’s qualified Captains guaranteed interviews with 4 Major Airline partners, including United Airlines.

AeroGuard has three flight school locations across the United States, strategically chosen for their ideal flight conditions, air complexity and proximity to city centers that offer a high quality of living : Phoenix, AZ; Chandler, AZ and Austin, TX.

The AeroGuard Pilot Pathway Program is available at all four locations. Whichever AeroGuard campus you choose, you can expect a focused and professional flight training environment with ample flying days to accelerate your flight training.

If you’re ready to make the move and start your new career path with AeroGuard, contact us and speak with one of our enrollment advisors today.

Begin Your Career Today!