A severe pilot shortage in the U.S. leaves airlines scrambling for solutions – NBC says
The United States is facing its worst pilot shortage in recent memory, forcing airlines to cut flights just as travelers return after more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several airlines are recruiting pilots from Australia, and American Airlines is selling bus tickets for some short routes.
The Covid-19 pandemic halted pilot hiring, and airlines handed out early retirement packages to thousands of employees to cut labor bills. Now the airlines are desperate to hire and train pilots, but the rush may take too long to avoid flight cuts.
Mesa Air can use 200 pilots, but it takes 120 days to replace a pilot who leaves.
Some carriers like Frontier and SkyWest are recruiting pilots from Australia under a special visa to help ease the pilot shortage. Still, the numbers are small compared with their overall ranks and hiring goals.
A proposal to raise the mandatory airline pilot retirement age to 67 from the current age of 65 has received pushback from family members of victims of 2009′s Colgan Air 3407 crash.
Pilot and other worker shortages have forced airlines to rethink their growth plans. SkyWest plans to drop service to 29 smaller cities that the government subsidizes through the Essential Air Service.
The cost of schooling for pilots can exceed $92,000 for a seven-month program at ATP Flight School. It takes 18 months or longer to build up enough hours to fly.
United started training its first students at its own flight school in December and aims to train 5,000 pilots there by 2030. The school costs around $17,000 per student. Which eases a significant hurdle to people entering the profession.
The shortages left airlines like American canceling flights and leaving passengers stranded a day or more in many cases.
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