- US airlines are once again facing a shortage of pilots as travel demand soars.
- Republic Airways, the regional carrier, is considering reducing training requirements from 1,500 to 750 hours.
- Senator Lindsey Graham could reportedly propose legislation that would increase the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67.
As the pilot shortage continues to destabilize the airline industry, airlines are struggling to meet their flight schedules, and some are even trying to reduce the training hours required to get more pilots in the air.
On May 13, Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Airlines, apologized in a Youtube video To cancel the continuous flights that plagued the carrier. Minicucci blamed the shortage of pilots, saying “we had 63 fewer pilots than we planned when we built our schedule,” causing a “multiplier effect.”
“By the time we discovered this bug, our pilots and flight attendants were bidding on April and May schedules, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations,” he continued.
The Seattle-based carrier is just one example of airlines struggling to find enough pilots to handle the surge in crowded travel after the pandemic. According to BloombergDelta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines They have all cut regional flights in recent months due to shortages, with United establish 100 regional aircraft on this issue.
“The shortage of pilots in the industry is real, and most airlines simply won’t be able to meet their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five years or more,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a quarterly earnings call. annual in April, per CNBC.
Because of the pilot shortage, airlines are considering changing long-term requirements to get more pilots sooner, such as eliminating class requirements, eliminating the mandatory number of flying hours needed for hiring, and increasing the retirement age for pilots.
in january, Delta has announced that it will end the requirement for pilots to obtain a four-year certificationQualified candidates have “earned more than the equivalent of a college education through years of life and leadership experience,” he said.
Regional airline Republic Airways, which operates on behalf of Delta, American, and United, is trying to reduce pilot training requirements. In April, the airline Request from the Federal Aviation Administration To obtain permission to hire pilots from its training academy when they reach 750 flying hours instead of the 1,500 hours currently required for most pilots.
There are already hourly waivers for trainees with two or four undergraduate degrees that reduce the required hours to 1250 and 1000 hours respectively, According to The Points Guy.
Regional airlines are particularly affected by the shortage as major airlines recruit their pilots. Mesa Airlines CEO Jonathan Ornstein He told CNBC It takes 120 days to replace a pilot who has given two weeks’ notice to work for a larger airline, and that the carrier can “employ about 200 pilots”.
In addition to lower training and education requirements, Senator Lindsey Graham (Republika Srpska) could propose a bill that would increase the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67, Airline Weekly reported. The move would be an attempt to fix the shortfall, allowing pilots to stay with their company for a longer period before being forced into retirement.
“Visually reducing the number of required flight hours might seem a riskier approach than allowing a healthy pilot to continue flying for a few more years,” Henry Hartfeldt, a travel analyst and head of the Atmospheric Research Group, explained to Insider.
“What is important, though, is that the FAA sit down immediately with the airline industry to discuss these matters,” he continued. “The airline industry literally doesn’t have the time for the FAA to have these discussions. We’ve seen route networks and airline schedules cut short due to a shortage of pilots, inconveniencing passengers and communities, and contributing to soaring airfares.”
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