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View Full Version : Expendable Spares?


Jeff Lebowski
05-09-2018, 07:05 AM
So last week we had a check airman on the jumpseat and when the topic of the recent hiring binge came up he repeated something that the big bosses told us during indoc; namely, that Southwest sees skilled and experienced pilots as strategic assets. As the pilot shortage deepens, airlines which haven't stocked up will find themselves behind the power curve. Southwest doesn't intend to find itself in that position.

So we're hedging on the future by hiring more pilots than we truly need today, I get that. As a recent hire, I'm grateful to be here and to find myself building seniority at a furious clip. But there's a part of me--the part that's been in aviation for twenty years and spent the decade post-9/11 taking in the 'nads--that has to wonder:

If we're getting away from our historically lean staffing model and carrying, let's say, 10% to 15% more pilots than we need to run the current operation, then what happens when oil shoots back up to $100+ per bbl, or the economy decides to soil itself again, or both?

As I said before, I'm thrilled to be here and proud to call myself a Southwest pilot. But whenever I hear people saying that I'm essentially a spare, I do tend to pucker.


WHACKMASTER
05-09-2018, 07:49 AM
There’s certainly a few different ways to look at this. I understand your concern and it’s legitimate.

If they want to stock up on pilots I see it as the company having an aggressive growth strategy, so in that sense it’s a positive indication.

However, if it causes trip productivity to suffer I will be one very unhappy camper to say the least.

I don’t want to fly 18 days and credit 150 but I do want to have a high TFP/day worked ratio.

e6bpilot
05-09-2018, 08:03 AM
There are some things that you have to do in order to grow an airline. Many of those things can be hidden in the books, handshake deals, and shuffling aircraft orders. A few things cannot be deferred too long. One of those things is hiring pilots. It takes close to a year to get someone interviewed, hired, and on the line and then another few months to complete the upgrade that is needed for every couple of new hires.
Things like pilot hiring and the training center are indelible signs of a growth strategy. Our CEO has always been coy with plans to keep the investors happy, but you can see the writing on the wall if you look hard enough.
You made it here, now sit back and relax and enjoy as your seniority gets better and better. Some things you can control, but other things (like how the airline is run) you have to entrust to others and hope for the best.
If you would have told me in 2014 that I would have 2,000 pilots below me on the list and would be in the top 50 percent of FOs in my base, able to hold any base in the system, I would have asked you to pass the crack pipe. I was being told 15-20 year upgrade at the time and that I should look at other jobs if I wanted seniority progression.
I find that check airmen are often more in the dark than line pilots so I wouldn’t worry too much about what they say. Just enjoy the ride.


SlipKid
05-09-2018, 09:25 AM
Wonderful.........:eek:

Jeff Lebowski
05-09-2018, 09:38 AM
There are some things that you have to do in order to grow an airline. Many of those things can be hidden in the books, handshake deals, and shuffling aircraft orders. A few things cannot be deferred too long. One of those things is hiring pilots. It takes close to a year to get someone interviewed, hired, and on the line and then another few months to complete the upgrade that is needed for every couple of new hires.
Things like pilot hiring and the training center are indelible signs of a growth strategy. Our CEO has always been coy with plans to keep the investors happy, but you can see the writing on the wall if you look hard enough.
You made it here, now sit back and relax and enjoy as your seniority gets better and better. Some things you can control, but other things (like how the airline is run) you have to entrust to others and hope for the best.
If you would have told me in 2014 that I would have 2,000 pilots below me on the list and would be in the top 50 percent of FOs in my base, able to hold any base in the system, I would have asked you to pass the crack pipe. I was being told 15-20 year upgrade at the time and that I should look at other jobs if I wanted seniority progression.
I find that check airmen are often more in the dark than line pilots so I wouldn’t worry too much about what they say. Just enjoy the ride.

Hey, man, thanks. Like I said, it's great to (finally) be here.

ZapBrannigan
05-09-2018, 04:31 PM
At least we only have one fleet type. If we decided to bring on an additional fleet it would create a training float.

First you hire the replacements for the current line pilots who will transition to the new type. Train them as FOs. Once they hit the line you upgrade the existing FOs to the current type. Once they hit the line the Captains can go to train on the new type.

Once everyone is all settled in their new positions you find that you have a surplus of pilots who existed solely to staff this training float. (See USAir transition to the Airbus circa 1999). Bad juju.


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flensr
05-09-2018, 05:36 PM
If it makes you feel any better, just remember...

SWA has a history of hedging and in spite of going through both good and bad times, so far it's worked out quite well so they're probably not going to freak out if their hedge (for either fuel or pilots) is a little pessimistic.

SWA has growth plans and is currently taking new aircraft.

Even though SWA recently retired a bunch of planes and all their new planes haven't arrived yet, there are a number of pilots who have been making comments to the effect that reserves are flying a lot and open time has been hit or miss. That tells me that even after getting rid of a bunch of planes, they're still on the low end of the manning range.

New markets - Hawaii is just the current focus. More planes with rafts could theoretically open up other routes too.

Stitches
05-09-2018, 06:59 PM
what happens when oil shoots back up to $100+ per bbl, or the economy decides to soil itself again, or both?

As Zap pointed out thankfully we don’t have a training float. The answer to your question is likely the same thing Swa did in 2009. Cease hiring and let retirements/attrition run its course until the company is ready to return to growth mode.

It’s always nerve wracking being on the bottom and the economy will take a turn eventually but Trumps recent tax bill seems to have energized things. My gut is it’s not going to run out of steam before you have a chance to add some cushion to your seniority.

rightseat
05-09-2018, 08:34 PM
The only part of a rapid, organic expansion plan in the airline industry that cannot be expedited or hidden is the pilot acquisition. Between the new training center, empty simulator bays, pilot build up, ETOPS approval through the Hawaiian expansion, classic retirement/MAX introduction and cash build up (and now the unantipated tax cut) - Southwest has a road map to what may well be the planning of one the most rapid expansions the industry has seen in decades. It will be shocking if within 24 months the full view of the roadmap is not revealed. While I firmly believe this, let’s just say I may only be “Dreaming” (if you know what I mean).

WHACKMASTER
05-10-2018, 03:21 AM
The only part of a rapid, organic expansion plan in the airline industry that cannot be expedited or hidden is the pilot acquisition. Between the new training center, empty simulator bays, pilot build up, ETOPS approval through the Hawaiian expansion, classic retirement/MAX introduction and cash build up (and now the unantipated tax cut) - Southwest has a road map to what may well be the planning of one the most rapid expansions the industry has seen in decades. It will be shocking if within 24 months the full view of the roadmap is not revealed. While I firmly believe this, let’s just say I may only be “Dreaming” (if you know what I mean).

See! I KNEW we were gonna get Dreamliners! You heard it hear first.

ZapBrannigan
05-10-2018, 03:48 AM
797s delivered the week after I retire seems more likely...

Or Dash 8 Q400s to serve markets like SYR, TYS, SAV, DAB, MLB, AVL, GSO, BVT, MDT, CRW... just a little feed could turn the airline into a colossus.


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saab2000
05-10-2018, 04:27 AM
797s delivered the week after I retire seems more likely...

Or Dash 8 Q400s to serve markets like SYR, TYS, SAV, DAB, MLB, AVL, GSO, BVT, MDT, CRW... just a little feed could turn the airline into a colossus.


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Bring them on, as long as all feed is flown exclusively by Southwest pilots on the Southwest seniority list.

ZapBrannigan
05-10-2018, 06:04 AM
Bring them on, as long as all feed is flown exclusively by Southwest pilots on the Southwest seniority list.



Amen to that!! [emoji120]


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