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U.S. Airlines: We Need More Regional Pilots

At least two U.S. carriers claim they are forced to ground numerous regional jets because they don’t have enough pilots to fly them.
Although there is increased demand for air travel, at least two U.S. carriers say they are having trouble meeting it because of a lack of regional jet pilots.


Flying Magazine reports the comments come from presentations by executives from American Airlines and Delta Air Lines at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.


Lack of Pilots Results in Parked Airplanes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines offered pilots voluntary separation and early retirement packages to reduce payroll and maintain business operations. With more travelers having the confidence to travel once again, the airlines say getting those pilots back into the system is proving very problematic.


Speaking at the conference, new American chief executive Robert Isom said his carrier is currently forced to ground around 100 aircraft in their fleet because of a lack of staffing. Complicating things even more, Isom said that with air travel ramping up, they foresee problems with onboarding new aviators to get airframes back in the skies.


“There is a supply and demand imbalance right now, and it is within the regional carrier ranks,” Isom said, as quoted by Flying. “We don’t have the pilots that we need to fly a full regional schedule.”


American isn’t the only carrier facing trouble in getting pilots back in the air. At the same conference, Delta chief executive Ed Bastion told attendees that they are experiencing a backlog in training and preparing new pilots to start flying.


“Pilots are a constraint in the system right now, and I think they’ll be a constraint for some time,” Bastian said, as quoted by Flying. “There are constraints around pilots–we’re hiring 2,000 pilots this year; getting them all through training is a real task.”


Although hiring and training issues are creating constraints today, there may be good news for the industry ahead. The Air Line Pilots Association, representing captains and first officers at several major airlines, says around 8,000 pilots were trained in the 12-month period ending May 2022. In a statement, the union claims that pilots are available, but carriers are more focused on cost-cutting measures.


Regional Pilot Issues Continue to Plague Carriers

The lack of pilots available for regional assignments is not a new issue for the industry. In March 2022, SkyWest Airlines asked permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to cut 29 cities from their regional network. Regulators denied  the request unless another airline could be identified to provide the essential services.

buylowsellhigh June 15, 2022

Airlines are basically selling tickets for flights they dont know whether they will have pilots (or cabin crew) for, and then cancelling/blaming it on labor shortage. Simple solution: Just stop doing that.

Govt can reduce the min # of hours pilots must have before legally allowed to fly at the airlines. Currently it is 1250-1500 hours and any pilots with less hours than that basically are flying crop dusters, skydivers, towing banners, or any odd job just to accumulate. Few have resources to rent aircraft ($150+/hr) and fly around. And yes, flying in circles do count for hours so the govt requirement is sometimes rhetorical.

Dublin_rfk June 11, 2022

It's simple really. If the airline doesn't have enough pilots to fly the schedule reduce the schedule until they do! Taking a customer's hard earned cash and then cancelling flights will among other things upset customers! Wasting a customer’s valuable upsets customers. And what do upset customers do? They make a lot of noise, and if they get upset enough they take their business elsewhere!