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Southwest Airlines Slams the Brakes On New Pilot Hiring as Boeing’s 737MAX Woes Start to Cascade Down

Southwest Airlines Slams the Brakes On New Pilot Hiring as Boeing’s 737MAX Woes Start to Cascade Down

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Southwest Airlines is slamming the brakes on new pilot hiring, according to an internal memo first revealed by aviation insider xJonNYC on the social media site X.

Southwest’s vice president of flight operations Lee Kinnebrew told pilots on Wednesday that the airline had taken the “difficult decision” to suspend initial training classes for new hire First Officers from April through to the end of 2024.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve closely analyzed different options for our Pilot hiring plan based on expected capacity growth beyond 2024,” Kinnebrew wrote in the leaked memo.

“These options included consideration from what we learned in previous periods of overstaffing and how it negatively impacted Pilot schedule quality and earning ability. We’ve also evaluated the impacts on our training center and prioritization of operating efficiently,” the memo continued.

The decision to pause new pilot hiring shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given that Southwest is expecting a significant slowdown in deliveries of the new Boeing 737MAX following increased regulator scrutiny of the beleaguered aircraft manufacturer.

Last month, Southwest revealed that it now only expected to take delivery of 79 MAX aircraft, down from a previous target of 85 new airplanes. Southwest has also completely removed the MAX-7 model from its fleet plans for 2024 owing to continuing certification delays.

This isn’t the first time that Southwest has been forced to adjust its hiring plans due to aircraft delivery delays, and only last October, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan warned that the airline would have to “moderate” hiring due to issues at Boeing.

The decision to cut back on new pilot hiring comes just weeks after flight crew at the Dallas-based carrier locked in a new four-year contract with pay rises of more than 44%.

Pilots received an immediate 29.15% pay rise, followed by 4% raises in 2025, 2026 and 2027. In the final year of the agreement, pilots will receive a smaller 3.25% pay rise.

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