Southwest Airlines


Photograph by Melody Hood.

In its 46th year of service, Southwest Airlines continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by more than 54,000 employees to more than 100 million customers annually. Southwest proudly operates a network of 101 destinations in the United States and nine additional countries with more than 3,900 departures a day during peak travel season. An exciting new addition is planned — service to Turks and Caico — beginning Nov. 5, 2017.

A Southwest Crew prepares for a quick turn as they head down to Florida for the evening.

Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent data, Southwest Airlines is the nation’s largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded. The company operates the largest fleet of Boeing aircraft in the world, the majority of which are equipped with satellite-based WiFi providing gate-to-gate connectivity. That connectivity enables customers to use their personal devices to view video, on-demand movies and television shows, as well as nearly 20 channels of free, live TV compliments of their valued partners. Southwest created Transfarency®, a philosophy which treats customers honestly and fairly, and in which low fares actually stay low. Southwest is the only major U.S. airline to offer bags fly free® to everyone (for first and second checked pieces of luggage — size and weight limits apply), while some airlines may allow free checked bags on select routes or for qualified circumstance; and there are no change fees, though fare differences might apply. The airline proudly unveiled a bold new look: Heart. A new logo, aircraft livery, interior design featuring a new seat and Flight Attendant galley, Employee-designed uniforms, and an updated airport experience all showcase the dedication of Southwest Employees who connect customers with what’s important in their lives.

From its first flights on June 18, 1971, Southwest Airlines launched an era of unprecedented affordability in air travel described by the U.S. Department of Transportation as “The Southwest Effect,” a lowering of fares and increase in passenger traffic whenever the carrier enters new markets. With 44 consecutive years of profitability, Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world, known for a triple bottom line approach that contributes to the carrier’s performance and productivity, the importance of its people and the communities they serve, and an overall commitment to efficiency and the planet.

Southwest recently announced the recipients of the 2017 Southwest Airlines® Heart of the Community Grants in partnership with Project for Public Spaces. Through Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program, Southwest Airlines is committed to building connections that bring people together to strengthen communities for a more resilient future. One of the ways the airline is accomplishing this is by supporting the creation, activation, and sustainability of vibrant community gathering spaces.

“At Southwest Airlines, we build community wherever we are, whether at our gates, in our planes, or out in the communities we serve,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Vice President and Chief Communications Officer. “That is the inspiration behind Southwest Airlines’ Heart of the Community program. By investing in authentic relationships and creating spaces and opportunities that bring people together, we can build connections and strengthen communities. We’re excited to see the positive impact each of these spaces will have as a result of these grants.”

“Our goal in working with the 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant recipients is to help them create great public spaces where everyone in the community feels welcome,” said Fred Kent, Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces. “When people in communities come together in this effort, results are tangible and immediate, and the placemaking process itself helps to strengthen the sense of belonging, sociability, and inclusion that great places naturally generate.”

Nolen Mannery inside the wheel well of a 737.

Since 2013, the airline has invested more than $6.4M in building connections and has awarded 20 grants through the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community program.

Southwest was the first in the industry to offer a profit sharing plan, through which Southwest employees currently own more than four percent of the company’s outstanding shares. For 2016, Southwest shared $586 million through its profit sharing plan with its employees —equaling approximately 13.2 percent of each eligible employee’s eligible compensation, or the equivalent of six weeks pay.

This is Southwest Airlines’ 43rd consecutive profit sharing award. For the 2016 plan year, Southwest announced a new funding structure that will pay part of the profit sharing award to the retirement plan and part in cash. Most employees  received ten percent of eligible compensation as a contribution to the profit sharing plan and the remainder—approximately 3.2 percent in cash, both of which were paid on April 20, 2017. Some employees received the entire profit sharing award in the retirement plan as specified in their collective bargaining agreement.

“Our people-first approach, which has guided our company since it was founded, means when our company does well, our people do really, really well,” said Gary Kelly, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines. “Our people work incredibly hard and deserve to share in Southwest’s success.”

This $586 million award is equivalent to more than $1.6 million a day and was funded on April 20, 2017. When this profit sharing award is added to the company’s $351 million in company contributions to Southwest’s 401(k) plans for 2016, Southwest will have rewarded employees with approximately $937 million, $852 million of retirement benefits plus a cash payment of $85 million.

Southwest Airlines also invested approximately $746 million in its employees’ other benefits during 2016, including healthcare coverage, and other welfare and wellness programs. In total, that’s nearly $1.7 billion dedicated to the wealth and wellbeing of Southwest employees for 2016 alone, on top of base salaries.

This content originally appeared on February 9 and June 14, 2017.

Southwest Airlines pilot hiring window is open from August 1st to August 11th Apply Now @

John Cowart, Captain / Assistant Chief Pilot ATL

Interview with Rocky Calkins, Manager, Pilot Hiring

Pre Interview:

Craig:  How do you select applicants to be brought in for an interview?

Rocky:  There are two steps to becoming an applicant; candidates must apply to the First Officer job posting at during an active hiring window and complete a profile with Pilot Credentials at , our affiliate partner in our hiring process. I work directly with Pilot Credentials to set various weighted parameters in order to generate a list of applicants who best meet what we’re looking for in a Southwest pilot.  The process also has a “human touch,” so each applicant’s profile is also reviewed by a panel consisting of myself and the Pilot Hiring Team Lead from the People Department (our human resources department).

Craig:  Can you explain the point system associated with the online application process and what types of things count for points?

Rocky:  There is no “secret sauce” or any one specific path to an interview. We look at a combination of flight experience (not to be confused with flight hours), training and check ride history, education, and leadership experience.

Craig:  What can an applicant do to increase their chances of being called for an interview?

Rocky:  Southwest truly looks to its pilots to be onsite leaders.  In that light, I encourage applicants to seek opportunities to lead in their current organization.  While not a strict requirement, serving as a check airman, assistant chief pilot, safety officer, or another similar responsibility will help to develop you into the leader we like to hire.  We place a high value on formal education.  A high school diploma is the only solid requirement; however, the vast majority of our pilots possess a bachelor’s degree, so that is what will make you most competitive.  There certainly is value in obtaining a two-year associate degree.  Always ensure your degree is obtained through an accredited institution versus a “diploma mill.” I recommend that inside of approximately six months from an applicant’s date of availability, they should update their Pilot Credential profile often, perhaps every couple of weeks.

Craig:  How critical is it to attend a job fair to get an interview?

Rocky: This isn’t a requirement, but I do recommend it.  These events give candidates an opportunity to meet with a member of our interview team to briefly review their resume, Pilot Credentials profile, and offer suggestions on how to gain competiveness.  Whether it’s a job fair that we occasionally host at our Dallas headquarters, or one that is hosted by an outside organization, we love meeting with motivated pilots and providing them a taste of our world-famous culture.

Craig:  What is the best way to prepare for an interview with your company?

Rocky:  I look at the interview and hiring process much like a potential marriage.  It’s a two-way street and both parties need to be sure it’s going to be the best commitment for them.  I recommend candidates take time to research the company:  our history, where we are today, and where we’re headed.  Certainly talking with active and retired Southwest employees, obviously to include pilots, would be beneficial.   They should feel free to ask questions that will help them decide if we are the right fit for them.   With regard to formal interview prep, I’ve seen its plusses and minuses.   It can certainly be beneficial in terms of helping a candidate craft the delivery of their personal experiences in a logical sequence and at an appropriate length.  They should just be sure it doesn’t become an impediment to us getting to know “the real person” during the interview.


Craig: Do you recommend that applicants get to your headquarters city the day before and get a hotel room for that night?

Rocky: Yes, I do.  Southwest provides roundtrip air travel to Dallas Love Field (DAL) from any city in our system.  While we don’t cover the cost of a hotel room, we do provide candidates with a list of recommended hotels in the immediate area, each providing complimentary shuttle service between the hotel, the Southwest headquarters building, and the DAL passenger terminal.  I highly recommend candidates plan ahead to arrive in DAL early enough to be well rested and nourished before arriving for their interview.

Craig: Can you walk me through a typical day of interviews?

Rocky: Candidates will be invited for either a morning or afternoon half-day session at our Headquarters campus.  With the invitation, each candidate will be provided a detailed list of what to bring to the interview.  Upon arrival, they will be greeted by members of our People Department, who will welcome them, assist them in storing their luggage, provide them with a temporary visitor badge, and sort through the required interview paperwork.  From there I offer my welcome to the candidates and provide them with a 30-minute presentation encompassing a broad overview of the direction Southwest is headed and an explanation of how the day’s events will progress.

Next the candidates will meet with members of our interview team. Our team is comprised of Southwest line pilots and People Department representatives, who work very hard to make the experience as professionally relaxed and enjoyable as possible.  Our interview process consists of three separate events each lasting about 45 minutes.  The order in which the candidate completes the different interviews is randomly scheduled the day prior.

Our Panel Interview consists of a pilot-interviewer and a member of the People Department with the goal of getting to know the candidate’s personality while discussing their career.  We like this to be a conversational environment and the candidates will always have an opportunity  to ask any questions they may have.  Next we conduct a Logbook Review that consists of a pilot-interviewer meeting with the candidate.  In this setting, the interviewer verifies their flight records, licenses, and reviews their current qualifications and check ride history.  Finally, we conduct our Line Oriented Evaluation (LOE).  This scenario-based CRM exercise is conducted in one of our interview rooms with two of our pilot interviewers and the candidate.

Craig:  What kind of questions can an applicant expect to be asked?

Rocky: Simply be prepared to talk to us about your career path and several examples of events that have helped develop you into the pilot and leader you are today.   Our questions are mostly tailored to a candidate’s specific career and largely derived from the pilot’s resume.

Craig:  What are some of the biggest mistakes that applicants make during the interview process?

Rocky: Showing up for the interview too “scripted”.  Like I mentioned earlier, formal interview prep can be a helpful tool for many people, but it can also hurt a candidate if they become reliant on a list of memorized responses.  This becomes very obvious in the interview and occasionally creates a barrier in the process of my interview team getting to know the candidate.  This should go without saying, but integrity is not an area we compromise on.  Withholding information on the application and then “coming clean” on interview day isn’t a recommended tactic.

Written test:

Craig:  Is there a written test or computer test?

Rocky:  We currently do not have a written or computer tests as part of the interview process.

Simulator Evaluation:

Craig:  Do you have a simulator ride?

Rocky: No, we do a pretty thorough review of the pilot’s previous flight history.  The high caliber pilots we interview should all have exceptional piloting skills.  Our Flight Training Center is continually impressed with the skill and work ethic of the new hire pilots we send them.

Post Interview:

Craig: Do you tell applicants they are hired in person that day?

Rocky: Typically, successful applicants will receive a conditional job offer (CJO) via phone call from one of our Domicile Chief Pilots approximately two weeks following their interview.  This gives us a chance to conduct a background check and then allows our Chief Pilots to make the final hiring decision based on the interview notes, reference check, and letters of recommendation.  Those not selected to continue in the hiring process will likewise be notified by email in that same time frame.

Craig: How soon can an applicant expect a class date after being hired?

Rocky: Our goal is to have them in class as soon as possible following the CJO.  The date of availably candidates provide on their profile is critical and does play a part in the timing of their interview.  Our policy is that candidates must be available for class within 90 days of their Decision Committee (CJO) date.


Craig: How many pilots does your airline expect to hire this year?

Rocky:  Southwest Airlines will hire 885 pilots in 2017.  The target for 2018 is not yet finalized.

Craig:  Does Southwest Airlines have a pilot referral program?

Rocky:  Referrals and letters of recommendation are considered on the back end and do not play a part in being selected for interview.   A minimum of three letters of recommendation are required from an applicant.  These letters may be submitted via our paperless systems or hand-carried to the interview. Letters need not be written by a Southwest Airlines Employee but should be from someone who can attest to the applicant’s flying skills and character over a reasonable time period.

Southwest Airlines is proud to announce their ATL Annual Safety Leadership Award winner; Derek Matthews

Derek Mathew, Technical Operations Production Supervisor ATL

Fast Facts:

Headquarters: Dallas, TX

Year Founded:  1971

Number of employees: 54,000

Number of Pilots: 8,800

Number of Aircraft: 727 aircraft as of March 31, 2017

Fleet Type and Makeup: 737-300 (79); 737-700 (497); 737-800 (151)

Southwest begins operation of nine 737 Max 8 aircraft on October 1, 2017

Daily Departures: More than 4,000


Number of Cities Served: 101 destinations across the United States and nine additional countries



Rocky Calkins, Manager, Pilot Hiring

Steph Logue, Marketing Director

Photographs by: Melody Hood

SOURCEAero Crew News, August 2017
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The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.


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