Ruth & I are flying to Denver next week, and I’m already worrying about how it will go. Many passengers, and the numbers are increasingly staggering, do not enjoys it anymore. From the largest to the smallest carriers, all airlines are suffering from a pilot shortage. According to Bob Woods of CNBC, “Airlines have hired more pilots this year than in any year since 1990.” This is not keeping up with demand. COVID and early retirements are blamed for the problems. While major airlines return to profitability and they are, maintaining enough cockpit crews is an ongoing problem. Cancelled flights result when pilots are not around. among other reasons. Airlines are competing for the available pilots in an era when many pilots are retiring. The military that used to be a source for pilots is experiencing fewer deployments and an increased use of drones. Airlines like United are experiencing a lessening pool of available pilots when they need replacements that Bob Woods estimates will require the hiring of 29,000 pilots in the next decade.
Then COVID struck. Flyers must hope that new pilots will be trained to deal with all possible emergencies. Before this pandemic occurred and the flu and respiratory issues became increasing problems, the flying public was already back in many airports with not enough pilots to meet demand and a decreasing pool of available flyers.in the form of pilots The shortfall of pilots this year alone is estimated to be 8,000. No wonder I’m worried about flying!
Regional carriers that no longer exist like they used to were steady sources for new pilot recruits. What to do about this is the airline’s dilemma now. Carriers hoped to recruit more women and minorities to fly passengers’ and they need to be filling flight schools. Are they? Scholarships and incentives to attend flight schools are needed when the average person’s image of a pilot is changing. The image most people have of competent pilots is white, male, and experienced when this is no longer the profile needed. The airline industry is changing daily. ATP, a flight school, is determined to train 20,000 pilots before 2030. Is there a pool of candidates available? My understanding of the issues would indicate continued shortages of qualified pilots for the next several years.
Where are the busiest airports now? While Sunbelt airports have seen increases in volume, airports like Boston are seeing increases too. Austin, TX, for example, is thriving and seeing big increases in traffic. There is said to be a new terminal in Newark that is a welcomed change. LaGuardia has been redone. There are said to be ongoing improvements happening at Denver International that I am glad to hear about since we are headed there.
Meanwhile, once reliable Southwest Airlines that had a problem recently that stopped it in its tracks for a period of time is claiming to expect to halve the turbine engine time needed for its prospective pilots as it accelerates hiring in 2023. Good luck all you flyers and airlines out there.