Best Travel Companies to Work For

Southwest Airlines and Virgin America top list of travel-related companies as rated by employees.

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If you'd like travel to be part of your work, consider trying to snag a job at domestic airlines Southwest Airlines or Virgin America.

Those companies rank at the top of a new list of best travel-related employers compiled by career website Glassdoor. The ranking is based on evaluations by employees who work at those companies.

"For people who are considering working in the travel industry, this is a really valuable perspective, to hear what other people who work in the industry are saying," says Glassdoor CEO and co-founder Robert Hohman, who used to work for travel-deal website Expedia. "To many outsiders, the travel industry looks extremely glamorous. And to a certain extent, it is ... but once you go past the beaches, pools, and cocktails with the little umbrella, there's a lot of hard work."

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The list includes various types of travel-related companies: airlines, hotels, car and truck rentals, online travel agencies, review websites, and cruise lines. Along with Southwest and Virgin America, Four Seasons Hotels, online travel company Orbitz Worldwide, and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants made the top five.

The 40 companies included in the ranking each received at least 10 reviews on Glassdoor between May 2009 and May 2011, and nearly three-quarters received more than 30 reviews. Glassdoor compiles reviews by requiring users to offer insight on their company or salary before reading reviews by others.

Both Southwest and Virgin America offer a perk that many job seekers covet: free and discounted flights. Virgin America allows employees plus a designated flying buddy—usually a spouse or friend—to fly for free whenever a plane has empty seats, and offer discounted flights to friends and family. Southwest Air also offers free, standby travel to employees, as well as a spouse, dependants, and parents, plus a limited number of passes for friends.

"You get discounts on everything: hotels, car rental, any travel-related items," says James Goodman, who has worked for Southwest for 14 years. "You add it all up, it's got to be thousands of dollars each year." A customer service training supervisor who lives in Chicago, Goodman flies for free with his wife and five-year-old son to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., twice a year. "I probably wouldn't be traveling there as much if I had to buy tickets on my own," he says.

Southwest, which also ranked second on Glassdoor's list of best 50 companies to work for this year, is hiring, but not in large numbers. The 35,000-employee company, headquartered in Dallas, has openings in revenue management and customer service. The company's also looking for fall marketing interns.

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Virgin America, a domestic airline that began flying in August 2007, is also hiring. The company is looking for pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics, as well as support staff to work in finance and human resources at headquarters. "Just about in every department, we have openings," says Christine Morehead, Virgin America's director of people (or human relations).

People like to work for the company because they're passionate about the airline's goal of reinventing flying, Morehead says. "They really feel like they're part of making history in the airline industry, bringing great service back." Headquartered in California (and not affiliated with Virgin Atlantic), Virgin America has about 2,000 employees.

Working in the travel industry may have its perks, but it also has its downsides. Southwest employees complain on Glassdoor of politics within the company and low pay. Some perks, such as flexible schedules, they say, apply only to employees in certain departments. Virgin America employees complain about being away from home a lot, an overwhelming workload, and long hours.

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Here's Glassdoor's full list of top travel companies to work for, as well as each company's ranking on a scale of 0-5:

1. Southwest Airlines (airline): 4.2

1. Virgin America (airline): 4.2