Southwest Airlines Scales Back Pilot Hiring In 2024


In a memo obtained by AirlineGeekslow-cost carrier Southwest Airlines announced its plans to suspend pilot hiring for the majority of 2024.

According to the memo, the airline plans to pause all new hire classes this year stating, “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.”

Further, Southwest said it would transfer pilots with conditional job offers to a “deferred candidate pool” that will be tapped into once hiring resumes. However, the airline did not give a time frame for when that could restart.

Pilot hiring figures from shows Southwest hired nearly 2,000 pilots in 2023—a far cry from the projected 345 pilots it plans to hire this year, as stated in the memo.

Other airlines including Spirit, FedEx and UPS have also scaled back hiring in recent months, suggesting a slowdown in recruitment following an unprecedented surge in hiring in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. Wait, what? You mean, those predictions of a pilot shortage might have been inaccurate? Has that ever happened in the past? “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9

      • They just gave a 50% wage increase so I’m guessing that takes away from the hiring side. Personally I’m starting to care less about airline problems with their mismanagement and their “needs” that come up every 6 months or so.

  2. Or you could look at it this way… Boeing has reduced the rate on the 737 MAX because of all the quality problems. Southwest is a 737 only airline. If Boeing can’t get new planes fast enough to them, then they don’t have rides for new pilots, so they have a “capacity growth” problem and shut down new hires.

    • I believe your observation is the biggest part of the reason Southwest is shutting down hiring. This has nothing to do with any pilot shortage in the industry.

  3. They are shrinking if they are not hiring due to retirements. Alaska stopped hiring too. BOHICA….

    I think the key thing to realize is that big airlines today don’t make money flying passengers. They make money with credit cards and miles from their loyalty programs and that really puts smaller airlines at a serious disadvantage.

  4. Fedex and UPS scaled back their hiring months ago. This was the result of over-hiring during the pandemic, when 40% of the world’s freight suddenly quit moving in the bellies of the passenger planes. When the pandemic “ended” more quickly than anyone thought, the demand for freight hauling vanished in a matter of weeks as the passenger planes returned to the skies in record numbers. The cargo carriers suddenly found themselves overmanned and with too many airplanes.