southwest airlines co

Southwest airlines has been flying for over 50 years and has a very unique place in the airline industry.  They serve over 121 destinations and 11 countries and are currently the fourth largest airline in the USA.  They offer a unique product to their customers and are committed to their employees as well.  This makes them a destination airline for pilots, flight attendants and crewmembers everywhere.

One of the concepts they are most famous for is for flying one fleet type of aircraft.  That aircraft is the Boeing 737 series of aircraft.  One fleet type means one manufacturer to deal with and one specific set of training for the employees.  This simplifies training as well as maintenance of the 737 fleet.


Where is Southwest Airlines based?

Southwest Airlines domiciles are simply crew bases in certain cities. It is the place in which Southwest crews are based. No one flight attendant or pilot has multiple bases. You are assigned a base and you fly all of your trips out of that one base. You may go anywhere in the country but you will always start and end in your crew base. Some of Southwest's bases are more senior than others and southwest is no different from any other company.  These are the bases:


In case you do not understand airport identifiers that is Atlanta, Baltimore, Midway, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando and Phoenix.  Company headquarters is in Dallas.

What are the most senior bases for flight attendants?

  • Atlanta, Phoenix and Dallas are the most senior bases.

What are the most junior bases for flight attendants?

  • Oakland, Denver and Los Angeles

What are the most senior bases for Pilots?

  • Houston and Dallas

What are the most junior bases for Pilots?

  • Oakland is the most junior and the cost of living is high in California.  However because of that, you will most likely not be on reserve if you are new and you will probably be able to bid out of there fairly quickly.
  • Phoenix is also considered a junior base but the cost of living is better than Oakland.  The big factor is the heat in the summer.
  • Las Vegas is junior and fluctuates in the cost of living as well.


Where should you pick as your crew base?

When you are a new hire pilot or flight attendant, you generally have very limited choices and sometimes no choice at all.  You go to where they need you as an assignment.  If there is more than one base open, then based on your seniority in your new hire class you will get to choose.  Most new hires do not get to choose their base unless there are massive shortages and openings in each base.  

What is Commuting?

Commuting is traveling (your home airline) from your current living location to your crew base. You can also travel “offline” which is using another airline to commute to work (for example United).  This is more common in smaller towns or cities that Southwest does not have a larger presence in. This could also be if you live in a Southwest base city, but you are not senior enough to hold it.  You could live in the Dallas area but have to commute to Oakland or Las Vegas. Commuting in general, has its own set of challenges.

Lets say you live in Houston but your crew base is in Oakland.  This means you have to get on a plane and fly to your crew base before you start your trip.  If your trip starts early in the morning, you may have to go the night before so that you are in base and ready to go.  The challenge is that additional time is added to your day because you have to commute into and out of your airlines crew base. Oakland also happens to be a city that does have limited options in and out on offline carriers. Other cities in the Southwest Airlines system are congested as well which is part of the job.  Most people want to avoid commuting.  I cannot think of any pilot or flight attendant who says they really enjoy it.

Crash Pads

Crash pads are places to stay that crews chip in for or contribute a monthly rent towards to stay while commuting.  If you have a trip that starts very early in the morning, you would most likely have to arrive the day before and stay somewhere overnight so that you could begin your trip.  For example if your trip started with a 6 am show time, and the first flight into your base did not arrive until 8 am, that obviously would not work.  So you would have to come the night before so you would be in position.

Crash pads can be a house with a bunch of bunk beds or an apartment as well.  It is all based on how the crash pad owner has it set up.  Some crash pads can have as many as 50 people staying there since they are not all there at the same time.  Crews come and go and sometimes you could be the only person there or sometimes you could be in a loaded house. 

It can be social if you like the people there.  Or it can be just a place to get some sleep and then start your trip.  Some junior crews spend a lot of time in the crash pad so its important that the atmosphere is decent so that you do not dread going there.

I have heard some crash pads described as "jail" and others as a throwback to college dormitories.  Its all in how you look at it, and I would say that most people would choose not to have a crash pad.

As of this writing, crash pads are getting harder and harder to come by since the economy has tighten the housing market leaving a lot of properties in demand.  This has created a shortage of rooms available to rent as a crash pad.  Staying in a hotel is another option to crew members but that is subject to availability and can quickly become very expensive.  Most hotels give crew discounts but they are also subject to supply and demand.  If demand is high, they will not be willing to give out rooms at a discount in favor of getting full retail pricing.

(keep in mind, this picture show a brightly lit room for photo purposes, usually its a dark tomb so that people do not have to deal with the light coming in. Photo by IAH Crashpads)



Southwest Airlines Fleet

Boeing 737-700  447 aircraft

Boeing 737-800  207 aircraft

Boeing 737 MAX 7 (approx 190 on order)

Boeing 737 MAX 8  85 aircraft


Southwest has a very unique paint scheme that has some variations over the year.  Some have used the word ugly to replace the word unique.  In my opinion the paint scheme definitely has a bit more too it than you might think.  Being bold and objective definitely has its own strategy.

Originally the southwest livery was painted to portray the colors of the desert and the Southwest region (get it?)  However the newer paint scheme definitely has some newer blue colors in there that are scientifically used to portray a level of confidence an authority subliminally.

Southwest Airlines Desert Gold Livery


Photo by Dylan Ashe

Southwest Airlines Canyon Blue Livery


southwest airlines flight attendant

Photo by Bill Abbott

Southwest Airlines Heart Livery


southwest airlines flight attendant

Photo by PlanespotterA320



What is Southwest's biggest hub?

Denver has 73 routes and over 1400 weekly departures.  This is the order (currently) of their operation from large to small

  1. Denver
  2. Chicago Midway
  3. Phoenix
  4. Baltimore
  5. Dallas Love
  6. Las Vegas
  7. Houston Hobby
  8. Orlando
  9. Nashville
  10. Atlanta

 Which airline has the highest paid flight attendants?

This list tends to fluctuate since contracts are always changing and never at the same time.  All the Legacy carriers are in the same range.

  1. Southwest at an average $37 per hour which is around 65K per year
  2. Delta Airlines, $31/hour and 57K per year
  3. United Airlines $54,600 per year
  4. Alaska Airlines $52,000
  5. jetBlue $46,000
  6. Spirit $43K
  7. Alliegiant $43K

This of course is average, if there is a lot of open trips a flight attendant can add them to their schedule and make even more.  There are many who routinely make over $100,000 a year.

Is it hard to get hired as a Southwest flight attendant?

Getting hired at southwest is more of a numbers game and knowing what the company is looking for.  The application process is simple but because of the volume of applicants, getting hired is very competitive. Southwest typically hires people who will be a great Cultural fit for the Company.  If you know what they are looking for, you can increase your odds.

  • Warrior spirit
  • Servants Heart
  • Fun loving attitude

Does Southwest have a flight attendant union?

Yes, Transport Workers Union Local 556


Does Southwest Airlines buy their flight attendants their uniform?

Most airlines supply a initial amount of uniforms during hiring.  Then you may or may not get a uniform allowance per year to refresh your attire.  This is subject to change with each contract.

Classic Original Southwest Flight Attendant Uniform

southwest airlines flight attendant

Todays Current Southwest Flight Attendant Uniform

southwest airlines

Does Southwest Airlines have a pilot union?

Yes, SWAPA is the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association that is internally formed and operated.  It is not part of any other airlines unions.


southwest airlines


Have a comment or an idea about Southwest as an airline company, the routes they fly, the cities they serve or any jobs or employment opportunities, please let us know below.

Hiring Resources:

Current information for both southwest flight attendant training and southwest pilot training is always recommended when doing your career research.

Southwest Airlines Pilot Hiring

Check this site out for current qualifications

Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Hiring

Check here for current information for southwest flight attendants

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