Thrive Aviation joins Southwest Airlines pilot training pathway program

To help build its pipeline of pilots, top 25 private jet charter operator Thrive Aviation is partnering with Southwest Airlines.

By Doug Gollan, December 12, 2023

Las Vegas-based Thrive Aviation has joined the Southwest Airlines Destination 255° Pilot Pathways Program.

By building hours with verified partners, the Cadet Pathway creates opportunities for new pilots to become Southwest Airlines First Officers in as little as four years.

“As a Southwest Airlines alum, this partnership has an entirely different meaning—it’s certainly a full circle moment for me. The program catalyzes a new pilot’s aviation career, offering them mentorship, training, and the opportunity to build the needed hours. This partnership is a testament to our shared vision of culture and innovation,” says Thrive Chief Executive Officer Curtis Edenfield.

How it Works

Cadets undergo a two-step process; the first phase is completing various courses and flight training requirements.

From there, they had their first few hours of single and multi-engine aircraft and simulator training.

Once achieved, cadets receive their commercial pilot’s license.

The program’s second phase includes cadets becoming certified flight instructors, earning additional hours, and qualifying them to apply for the program’s various partners until they’re competitively qualified for an opportunity to join the Southwest crew.

“Southwest is excited to welcome Thrive Aviation to our Destination 225° Pilot Pathways Program as a new partner in our Cadet Pathway,” says Lee Kinnebrew, Vice President of Flight Operations at Southwest Airlines.

He adds, “The program aims to support and inspire pilots interested in joining Southwest as a First Officer, and we look forward to working with cadet candidates as they build flight experience.”

The two companies have previously been working with each other via the airline’s Southwest Business and Southwest Business Assist programs as a national account.

Edenfield notes, “Southwest Business has proven invaluable to Thrive Aviation and our operation. We rely on Southwest Business weekly – often daily – to fly our employees across the entire network. It’s an incredible tool, and we could not be happier.”

Thrive recently added managed aircraft to its floating fleet.

Private Jet Pilot Shortage

Several private jet operators have similar relationships, including Jet Linx, which has been part of the Southwest Airlines program since 2019.

NetJets‘ union, NJASAP, says the world’s largest private jet operator is losing pilots to the airlines seeking higher pay.

Thrive was the 24th-largest charter/fractional private jet operator through June, according to Argus/TraqPak.

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