U.S. airlines are facing a severe pilot shortage.
Management consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates the industry is facing a deficit of about 8,000 pilots, or 11% of the total workforce, and says the shortfall could reach 30,000 pilots by 2025.
In a bid to slash costs during the Covid pandemic, airlines grounded planes, and offered early retirement packages to thousands of senior pilots. Carriers have also seen fewer pilots coming from the military which has faced recruitment issues of its own.
“It’s great to see that there’s such a need for pilots, but there’s a level of, how did this happen that you’re almost standing on a street corner, step right up, come be a pilot, I mean it, here’s some money,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association and a pilot with American Airlines. “That’s a sign that we have failed as an institution.”
To attract the next generation of pilots, carriers are moving more of their early training programs in-house.
So what led to the shortage of pilots in the U.S., and what are carriers like United, Delta and Alaska doing to fix the problem?