An article in today’s Chicago Tribune describes the need for commercial pilots and the approaches airlines are taking to bolster its workforce.
When the airline industry struggled after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and during the recession, pilot jobs were scarce. American Airlines went 13 years without hiring a single one, a stretch that David Tatum, the airline’s director of pilot recruiting and development, calls “the lost decade.”
Hiring has resumed in recent years as demand for travel has grown. But a wave of upcoming retirements means airlines will need to replace thousands of current employees. Over the next 20 years, Boeing estimates that airlines will need to recruit about 131,000 commercial pilots in North America and 514,000 more throughout the rest of the world.
There’s more than one way to become a pilot at a major airline, though all require commitment. Some people undertake expensive training at a flight school or university program before rising through the ranks at a smaller carrier, a process that can take years. Others join the military.
United Airlines and American Airlines say they aren’t having trouble filling job openings, but want to make sure that remains the case. Airlines say they’re hiring fewer pilots from the military, which means they lean more heavily on regional carriers to fill their ranks — but they don’t want the regional airlines they work with to experience shortages either.
Some regional airlines had to cut flights between 2011 and 2017 because the carriers didn’t have enough pilots to fly all their routes, but members of the Regional Airline Association are now having an easier time hiring, in part because salaries are rising
Both United and American have introduced recruiting programs that could provide their regional airline partners with a pool of prospective pilots.
United already has career pathway programs with some regional airlines, but the new initiative is more structured and is meant to give aspiring pilots a better understanding of how to move through the ranks to a job at United. It also involves more coaching and mentoring, Hamilton said.
The airline expects to hire more than 10,000 pilots over the next 10 years, including about 650 this year. Nearly half of United’s 12,500 pilots are expected to retire during that decade.
American Airlines chose to focus on aspiring pilots with little or no flight experience with its Cadet Academy program, which launched in April 2018. Applicants who successfully complete flight school training through the program are guaranteed an interview at three regional airlines owned by American: Envoy Air, PSA Airlines and Piedmont Airlines. If hired, the student would be able to transfer from the regional airline to American when they have enough seniority.
The airline will hire 900 pilots this year and expects to continue hiring similar numbers each year. It expects about 8,000 pilots to retire over the next decade.
Click here for the full article.