The United States is experiencing its biggest pilot shortage in recent memory, forcing airlines to cancel flights just as travelers are heading back after more than two years of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, reports CNBC. The sector is scrambling for solutions as a result of the issue.
As training and licensing stalled due to the Covid epidemic, pilot recruiting came to a halt. Airlines offered early retirement bonuses to thousands of pilots and other personnel to reduce labor costs as travel demand plummeted during the depths of the crisis.
To counter the crisis, a lawmaker has proposed legislation to raise the legally-mandated retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67 or higher to increase aviators’ time in the skies.
A regional airline suggested lowering the number of flying hours required before joining a U.S. carrier, and airlines are reviewing training programs to lessen the barrier to entry.
Delta Air Lines, Inc DAL joined other major airlines earlier this year in eliminating a four-year degree from its pilot hiring requirements.
Several U.S. airlines, including Frontier ULCC, are recruiting some pilots from Australia.
“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby stated on quarterly earnings call in April.
According to Kit Darby, a pilot pay analyst and retired United captain, major U.S. airlines are attempting to attract more than 12,000 pilots this year alone, more than doubling the previous annual hiring record.
Pilot and other worker shortages have forced airlines to rethink their growth plans. JetBlue Airways Corporation JBLU and Alaska Airlines ALK are among the carriers that have recently trimmed capacity.
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