Southwest Airlines is hiring pilots, but it will cost you.

Southwest Airlines is at it again. They are the largest airline in the U.S. in terms of passengers carried, yet they still require new hire pilots to pay for their own 737 type rating. What kind of shady deal is this? Not that long ago you couldn’t even get an interview without the type rating. Now they’ll let you interview, but if you want a job you’re going to have to pay for your own type rating.

I can think of only one valid reason why an airline like Southwest would have such a requirement, and that is that someone is making money off of this deal. A 737 type rating is going to run in the neighborhood of around $10,000 to $15,000. But wait. If you guys go to this flight school we can get you a sweatheart deal. We can get you your type rating for around $8,000. Now I’m not going to mention this flight school by name. I’m smart enough to protect myself from a possible lawsuit. But the fact remains that the majority of pilots who are going to need to pay to get that type rating are going to be steered toward one particular company.

This is not just “pay for training,” the scourage of hiring practices past. This is outright fraud in my opinion. If you meet the normal requirements of total flight time and PIC jet time, there is no valid reason that anyone at Southwest can give to justify requiring that a pilot must also pay for a type rating. It’s not like Southwest is saving money. They still have to put you through the same amount of training. Just because this is how they did things way back when doesn’t mean that it’s okay now. It wasn’t okay then and it certainly isn’t okay now.

A pilot who has invested $40,000 or more on education, plus another $20,000 or more on flight training, then worked for five to ten years making $15,000 to $25,000 a year at a regional carrier, should not have to look at tacking on an additional penny just for the privilege of working for an airline, even if that airline is Southwest.


I recently learned that Southwest is no longer requiring a type rating. It must be a sad day for Southwest to now have to accept applicants who are substandard because of their lack of a type rating.



  1. You dummy.

    This is to help protect the culture that has allowed SWA to be profitable over the past 40 years. Weasels like you, who want everything for free and wanted the world handed to you are the people the the airlines doesn’t want. This merely weeds out the true Southwest pilots from the “half-assers”.

    You’ll invest in a 4 year degree which costs 4x as much as a type, just to get on with one of the other majors. Southwest does not require a degree.

    So who’s the dummy now?

    • Hey Captain A. If you represent the kind of pilot flying at SWA, then I’m glad I’m not flying there. My guess, though, is that you’re an exception to the many fine pilots at SWA. So maybe you should keep your name calling to yourself.

  2. I see that anyone can get published these days, so I will take a shot at it now. The author of the article is certainly free to question, wonder and surmise. This is America. I have a BIG problem with the insinuation that SWA is getting payola from HPA (the flight school to which the author eludes. There are VERY legitimate reasons why Southwest may require a 737 type prior to employment.

    While I do not know that this is a reason, having a pilot type before employment takes stress off of the new hire process. There is likely less additional training outside of the SWA syllabus or review boards at SWA due to poor performers getting by the interview process.

    The fact that SWA requires a type for employment has not kept them from having a well-worn path to their door by many highly qualified pilots. Take heart though, the game may change in the next three years. United is set to do a lot of hiring in 2012 and SWA is putting pilots through class as well in the first part of the year. After the highly qualified pilots are gone, it will be a mad scramble for crews. Maybe no more types required?? Hang in there and you can have your shot then.

    Here are other paths to SWA. The US Navy flies the 737. Join the Navy for a free type and then apply. Maybe you could join WIA or OBAP and win a free one? How about gaining employment with a company that flies the 737 and get the type and no cost to you before applying to SWA.

    FYI. I do not work for SWA nor HPA. I can vouch for HPA as. high quality aviation eduction experience. They do more than 737 types too if you are interested.

    Bottom line is that SWA does business this way. You are not required to apply. Don’t try to legislate “fair”.


  3. Okay, for the record, as the author of this article, I have the following type ratings: LR-JET, ATR 42/72, A320, DC9-80, B757/767. I didn’t pay for any of those type ratings. I seemed to have done just fine without shelling out $10,000 or more on a type rating.

    I stand by the article. If there was a legitimate reason for Southwest to have such a policy, then how can anyone explain why the pilots at Airtran, who did not have a 737 type rating at the time of acquisition, didn’t have to go out and buy their type rating. Say an FO at Airtran left that company for another job, then was hired by Southwest. That pilot would not be hired unless he paid for his type rating. But if the FO was still working at Airtran when SWA acquired them, he didn’t have to pay for a type rating. Same pilot; same skills; same experience. Where’s the justification?

    Requiring pilots to pay for their training is wrong. It can’t be justified. And the fact that one flight school benefits from this policy over all others makes it even more troubling.

  4. Interesting letter and I understand your frustrations and emotions. You aren’t the first. However, I do have some information to help your (and others) understanding of the hiring process at Southwest.

    In response to your AirTran observation. From a legal standpoint, Southwest could not impose the type rating requirement on FOs already employed by AirTran when AirTran was purchased by Southwest. The result is Southwest Training is developing course additions specific to meet FAA ATP Boeing 737 requirements for those FOs not in possession of the type when upgrading to Captain. These additional requirements certainly result in additional training costs that otherwise would have ben paid to an outside flight school.

    Southwest, like all companies, utilizes human resource methods to hopefully bring candidates Southwest deems “suitable” to join the Southwest culture. As you know, having a four year degree in Marine Biology doesn’t directly apply to the aviation industry. However, acquiring that degree reveals much about the persons drive and desire to succeed. The same can be said in expending the time, effort and investment to obtain the B737 type outside the company. Certainly not everyone succeeds. There are more pilot applicants than not making this type rating investment. Know the type rating is not required to be invited to an interview, but the person holding a B737 type will receive additional points thus improving his/her chance for an invitation.

    Insurance. Southwest is mostly self insured. However, there are underwriters paid to cover a “big event” should one happen. Having an all B737 Captains no matter FO or Captain position somewhat lowers those premiums.

    I don’t buy into your conspiracy theory. I know many Southwest FOs and they have a varied background of where/how they received their B737 type. No doubt “someone” is making money. Better stated, “flight training businesses” are making money. You wouldn’t expect these schools to operate for free?

    Bottom line. Southwest is an outstanding company to work for. They have hiring requirements that vary from other companies as any other business. Calling the practice “shady” and “outright fraud” is disingenuous. If their requirements aren’t satisfactory for you, simply, move on.

  5. Okay, since I am the author of this blog and of this article, I am going to get the last word on this topic. If you have something to add, please do so through some other means.

    Here are the facts as I see them:

    No other major airline has a pay to get hired policy.

    Anyone lucky enough to get a job offer who doesn’t already have a 737 type will be steered toward one flight school.

    Southwest doesn’t save a penny by having you pay for a type. You still have to go through the same amount of training once you are hired.

    The argument that having a type helps Southwest weed out weaker pilots is bogus. If that were the case, the entire airline industry would be manned by weak pilots.

    Congratulations you’re hired! We’re looking forward to having you join our team. Just one thing, though. you do need that type rating. Here is some information that might help you with your decision on flight schools. Don’t worry about contacting us when you have the type. We’ll know.

    • Captain SWA
      Thats the way we do business, its just business, if you don’t want to buy a type then don’t, your not entitled, there are jobs at other airlines.

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