Guide to Working at Southwest Airlines was originally published on Forage.

Guide to Working at Southwest Airlines
Working at Southwest Airlines

If you’ve ever traveled by air, you’ve likely flown with or considered flying with Southwest Airlines. As the largest low-cost carrier airline in the world, Southwest is a popular choice for hundreds of millions of passengers. 

But have you thought about working at Southwest Airlines? Learn about internships, opportunities for recent graduates, benefits, company culture, and more. In this guide, we cover:

What Is Southwest Airlines?

As one of the largest airlines in the world, Southwest Airlines’ purpose is “to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost travel.” Southwest provides the opportunity to explore the world, reconnect with loved ones, and get from point A to B in a budget-friendly manner. 

Southwest Airlines opened its doors in 1971 but only serviced the Texas Triangle: San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Founded by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher, the airline quickly proved successful as a fun, casual alternative to the formal environment of other airlines. By 1979, Southwest flew to 12 destinations — 30 destinations by 1989, 54 by 1999, 67 by 2009, and 102 by 2020.

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Southwest Airlines has more than 60,000 employees and services over 120 airports across 11 countries. The airline operates 4,000+ flights a day during the peak travel season and posted revenue of $23.8 billion in 2022.

Student and New Graduate Opportunities at Southwest Airlines 

Southwest Airlines helps students and new graduates get their careers off the ground. The company’s paid internships are available in human resources, marketing, technical operations, technology, communications and outreach, finance, supply chain management, and flight/inflight operations. 

All interns should be at least a sophomore by the time their internship begins and studying a relevant field. In addition, interns must be full-time students with a cumulative 2.5 GPA to apply to the program.

Many Southwest interns become full-time employees, so an internship could be the foot in the door you need. And in addition to gaining valuable work experience, interns are eligible for free domestic travel on Southwest! 

Below are more specifics about Southwest Airlines’ internships and direct hire programs.

Spring Internships

Applications for summer internships open in the first half of September. Spring internships are fully remote but with opportunities to visit the corporate office in Dallas, Texas. The experience lasts from the end of January until April (12 weeks) and requires at least 24 hours of work a week. Southwest Airlines gives interns a $500 stipend for a home office setup.  

Summer Internships

Applications for summer internships open in the first half of October. Summer internships are mostly in-person, but workplace flexibility options are available. The exceptions are technology department internships, which are fully remote. Internships last from late May to mid-August (12 weeks) and require a full-time work schedule commitment of 40 hours per week. Southwest Airlines provides summer interns with a $1,000 stipend for relocation to Dallas. 

Neurodiverse Technology Internship

The Neurodiverse Technology Internship is a summer program for neurodiverse students with autism spectrum disorder. The tailored program includes career coaching and mentorship on top of work experience. Applications open the last week of January, and the internship takes place from late May to mid-August (12 weeks). This virtual program comes with optional, in-person opportunities in Dallas and requires a full-time commitment. Southwest offers interns a $1,000 stipend for home office setups and other work expenses. 

Direct College Hire Program

Southwest’s direct college hire program helps students transition smoothly from the classroom to the office. The program is to assist recent college graduates or professionals early in their tech careers in their professional development journey. The company helps you develop lasting networking connections while building your career. 

>>MORE: Ready to launch your career? Check out Forage’s free professional development virtual experience programs.

You can apply to three roles in Southwest’s technology direct hire program.

Associate Analyst

Entry-level associate analysts act as liaisons between the technology team and the company, working to solve complex business problems. Preferred qualifications include:

  • Degree in business, management information systems, information systems, computer science, or a related field
  • One year of analyst work experience or relevant coursework
  • Problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Demonstrated initiative and leadership

Associate Software Engineer

Southwest Airlines’ Associate Software Engineers (ASWEs) work on full-scale implementation and product improvement projects. Preferred qualifications for ASWEs are:

  • Degree in computer science, computer engineering, engineering, business, information systems, information technology, or a related field
  • One year of software engineering, developer, or architect experience or relevant coursework
  • 1+ software engineering internships
  • Organizational and problem-solving skills

>>MORE: Experience a day in the life of a software engineer with Cisco’s Intro to Software Engineering Virtual Experience Program.

Associate System Engineer

Developing, evaluating, installing, and implementing systems are essential tasks for associate system engineers. Qualifications include:

  • Degree in engineering, computer science, computer engineering, information technology, information systems, business, or a related field
  • One year of work as a developer, architect, software engineer, or relevant coursework
  • 1+ software engineering internships
  • Demonstrated leadership and initiative
  • Problem-solving and organizational skills

Still in school? Southwest Airlines offers a scholarship of up to $5,000 for students pursuing a career in the aviation industry. Must be attending or planning to attend an accredited college or university, have at least a 2.5 GPA, and be 24 years of age or younger.

Southwest Airlines Careers and Salaries

When considering a career with an airline, you may automatically think of pilot and flight attendant jobs. However, many other job opportunities at Southwest exist beyond aircraft and airport roles. Other opportunities include roles on Southwest’s corporate, customer support, technology, and operations teams.

Your compensation will vary depending on your previous work experience and skills. But, in general, here’s what you can expect from roles on two of Southwest Airlines’ teams. 

Southwest Airlines Technology Jobs 

Southwest’s technology team uses innovation, strategic planning, and problem-solving to help the airline operate safely and on time. According to Glassdoor, these are the estimated average salaries for early-career positions (0-1 years of experience) on Southwest’s technology team:

Most technology jobs listed on Southwest’s career page include a base salary range to help you determine your earning potential.

>>MORE: Learn about a data science career in the aviation industry with the British Airways Data Science Virtual Experience Program.

Southwest Airlines Corporate Jobs

Are you interested in analyzing data and workplace problem-solving? If so, Southwest Airlines’ corporate roles may be the right fit for you. 

The following are the average salaries for early-career positions (0-1 years of experience) for career paths on the Southwest Airlines corporate team: 

Southwest Airlines Benefits 

When working at Southwest Airlines, you can expect traditional benefits, such as comprehensive health insurance and paid time off. On top of conventional offerings, these are some of the distinctive benefits and perks employees have at Southwest Airlines: 

  • Travel privileges: Southwest employees have unlimited free travel privileges for themselves and their dependents, along with other travel discounts and travel support.
  • Southwest Airlines Gratitude Points (SWAG): SWAG is Southwest’s employee recognition program. Employees can send gratitude notes and nominate coworkers for awards, which come with points. Employees can then spend these points on perks. 
  • Financial rewards: Southwest provides opportunities for employees to invest with its employee stock purchase plan. Also, the company offers a profit-sharing plan to invest in Southwest’s success.
  • Career mobility center: Southwest wants to empower employees to grow with the company. The career mobility center offers career advising sessions and interview prep for internal opportunities. 
  • 401(k) matching: Southwest offers up to a 9.3% company match on retirement plan contributions.
  • Volunteering: The company provides round-trip airline tickets to nonprofits (Tickets for Time) based on employee volunteer hours.
  • Additional benefits: Beyond comprehensive health insurance, Southwest offers adoption assistance, paid parental leave, long-term disability, pet insurance, and more.

What do employees think of these benefits? According to Glassdoor, Southwest employees rate their benefits an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Some of the most highly rated benefits are the 401(k) plan, extended leave, travel perks, and employee discounts. 

On Comparably, perks and benefits get a rating of 87 out of 100, an A+, and 70% of employees rate their office perks as “good” or “fantastic.”

>>MORE: What Are Fringe Benefits?

Southwest Airlines Culture 

Southwest Airlines promotes a “culture of caring,” and the company takes pride in putting people first. Every employee contributes to the company culture, which helps Southwest provide quality hospitality. 

Another cultural aspect of Southwest is celebrating. Company-wide events are prevalent and include spirit parties, chili cookoffs, Southwest rallies, and local parties. The final pillar of Southwest’s culture is putting its “heart in action.” The company encourages employees to volunteer and give back to their surrounding communities. 

What is the work culture like at Southwest from an employee perspective? Besides earning a spot on Forbes’ America’s Best Large Employers 2023 ranking, Southwest’s culture rating on Comparably is 4.6 out of 5 stars (an A+), and 87% of employee reviews are positive. 

Leadership, happiness, and compensation are a few of the highest-rated cultural metrics. On the other hand, office culture and professional development are the lowest rated.

Coworkers tend to get along at Southwest, with 91% looking forward to interacting with their coworkers daily. Eighty-four percent of Southwest employees call their workplace positive, and 77% are happy with their work-life balance.

MIT’s Culture 500 ranking shows that collaboration is the most positively discussed cultural value among employees at Southwest Airlines. However, execution and agility are often discussed negatively.

>>MORE: What Is Company Culture (and Why Does it Matter)?

Southwest Airlines Initiatives 

Southwest Airlines’ initiatives and corporate citizenship efforts focus on people, the planet, and performance and governance. These are some of the company’s major projects: 

  • Planet initiative: Southwest is working toward carbon neutrality by 2050, reducing carbon emissions by at least 20% and replacing 10% of its total jet fuel consumption with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.
  • Community outreach: Southwest has built relationships with more than 400 local and national organizations to generate community impact. The company also maintains programs on workforce development, disaster and crisis response, and human trafficking awareness.
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI): Committed to diversity, Southwest set a goal to double the percentage of racial diversity and increase gender diversity in the senior management committee by 2025. The company is also evolving hiring practices to support diversity goals.

>>MORE: How Can You Tell if an Employer Values Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?

How Does the Southwest Airlines Interview Process Work?

While Southwest doesn’t provide information on its interview process, according to Indeed, over 50% of interviewees report the process takes one month or longer.

Some of the most commonly reported steps are on-site interviews (81%), background checks (79%), drug tests (76%), and phone screenings (75%). Less common interview steps include sample work (2%) and presentations (6%). 

As for what to wear to your job interview, 60% of interviewees followed a business casual dress code, and 33% chose formal attire. 

But how do you land an interview in the first place? According to Glassdoor, 83% of Southwest interviewees applied online, while only 6% came in from recruiters and 5% from employee referrals. 

As for the interview experience, 80% of interviewees report having a positive experience, while only 9% say they had a negative interview experience. Interviewees rate Southwest interviews as average difficulty. 

Southwest does answer some frequently asked questions about careers and provides the following tips:

  • Southwest prefers that candidates don’t submit cover letters with their resumes.
  • You can join the talent community to get information on upcoming openings and other career information.
  • For early career opportunities, you can sign up to receive updates on application openings and other important dates and information.
  • Southwest offers a weekly recruiter-led Career Connections webinar (Tuesdays, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CT) to give job seekers information on what to expect from the application and interview process and how to prepare, along with opportunities to ask questions. 

Crush the interview

Forage’s virtual work experiences equip you with the skills and experience to speak confidently about the role during interviews.

Takeaways 

  • Southwest Airlines is the biggest low-cost carrier airline in the world.
  • Alongside pilots and flight attendants, Southwest offers positions in technology, customer service, and other corporate career paths. 
  • Southwest offers unique benefits such as free travel privileges, gratitude points, and profit-sharing plans.
  • Southwest’s major initiatives focus on the environment, community outreach, and diversity. 
  • 80% of Southwest interviewees reported positive interview experiences, and 83% landed interviews through online applications.

Ready to keep exploring your career options? Learn about working at other top companies with Forage’s company guides.

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