Every new Flight Attendant will come face-to-face, with the inevitable day, when you find out what base you’ve been placed at.
I’m a Southwest flight attendant and for me, honestly, it was one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of training.
In this article, I’ll explore the factors that influence your base assignment, the range of base options you have as a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines, and offer practical advice on how to make an informed choice.
Where are SouthWest Airlines Flight Attendant Bases?
Southwest currently has flight attendant bases in:
- Atlanta, Georgia (ATL)
- Baltimore/Washington, Maryland (BWI)
- Dallas, Texas (DAL)
- Denver, Colorado (DEN)
- Houston, Texas (HOU)
- Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS)
- Los Angeles, California (LAX)
- Oakland, California (OAK)
- Orlando, Florida (MCO)
- Phoenix, Arizona (PHX)
- Chicago Midway, Illinois (MDW)
- Nashville, Tennessee (BNA) *Opening 2024*
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL)
- Austin, Texas (AUS)
Can you pick your base as a Flight Attendant at Southwest?
The answer to this is multifaceted.
You can definitely put in for the base you would like to fly out of, but there are many factors that go into play.
In training, you’ll be required to rank all the bases, with your top choice as your dream base.
Your ultimate placement depends on various factors, including the demand for new hires, the number of current employees looking to change bases, and, naturally, seniority considerations.
Regarding seniority during training, it’s based on age, which can significantly influence your base assignment.
Once you are “on the line”, seniority is based on how many people you have below you, at your current base. This will change depending on each base.
Will Southwest give you the base you want?
This will depend on what base you are wanting, and the needs of the operation.
Many people are sent to bases that are not their first choice, however, many do get to the base they would like, after a few months.
Again, this is dependent on the base you are trying to get into. There are what are considered “junior” bases, and “senior” bases.
At a junior base, where many of the new hires are being sent, your seniority could rise very quickly. These bases are ultimately where most new hires are sent straight out of training. This could be due to an increase in the operation, transfers, etc.
At a senior base, it could take years before you have a decent amount of people below you.
Where you end up, truly depends on the needs of the operation at that time. After you’re assigned your base, you can go in and change your preference order, anytime you like. The top preference is always what you are aiming towards.
Are all the bases in Southwest open for new hires?
Technically yes. You are able to bid for any of the bases in the system.
However, it is based on operational needs.
Currently, it seems that the most junior bases are: Denver, Las Vegas, Midway and Oakland.
Most seniors are: Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta and Orlando.
Many people are getting into the base they want after a few months, but this will depend on the operation at the time. You can also factor in how many new hires are projected for the next few years.
If you can get hired when more people are coming on board, movement throughout the system will increase. In turn though, the senior bases, your seniority is going to stay low for a longer amount of time.
How to get a transfer in Southwest, and how long can it take?
There are two ways to transfer to another base.
- Mutual Transfer: If you find someone else who wants to swap bases with you. They want your base, and you want theirs. Mutual transfer. This option can expedite the process.
- Openings-Based Transfer: Alternatively, you can request a transfer to your preferred base, but you’ll need to wait until there’s an opening in that base. Openings may arise due to transfers, operational need, and other factors. Some bases are going to be quicker than others, just due to those bases being more junior. Or, that base is expanding faster than the others.
What is better, a smaller base or a bigger base at SouthWest?
In my opinion, I would say a bigger base. Simply due to the fact that you are going to continue getting more people coming in under you. This will boost your seniority, and ultimately help you attain the schedule you want faster.
In a bigger base, you will be able to:
- elevate through the reserve system quicker
- more flight options to trade in and out of
- commuting will be easier due to the number of flights per day
- more flying, which leads to more income
- more people you can go to when you need to trade/drop trips
Smaller bases have lower turnover, and less new hires boosting your seniority. However, you will get to know more of the people you are working with. A closer bond with the base and what is happening on the day-to-day. This is also very dependent on your lifestyle as well. If you live where the smaller base is located, you might choose a smaller base, so you don’t have to commute.
Each option has their pros and cons.
What is the best base for a new Southwest Flight Attendant?
Personally, I would say that Denver is the best base for a new hire.
Denver International Airport and Southwest’s operations are expanding rapidly.
New gates, new routes, a ton of new hires, etc.
I don’t see this slowing down anytime soon.
I think it’s a great location for new hires to come on board and gain seniority fairly quickly from the start.
Whether you choose to move to Denver or commute, you will have plenty of options to ensure you have an amazing start to your new career.
All in all, becoming a Flight Attendant at SouthWest is truly an extremely rewarding career.
No matter what base you may start this journey, you have plenty of options and locations to choose from.
As you progress, you will figure out exactly what fits you, and your lifestyle.
Southwest is an amazing airline, and any base has opportunities for you to excel in your new career.