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United Sets Pilot Diversity Goal – But Not Everyone Approves

United Sets Pilot Diversity Goal – But Not Everyone Approves
Joe Cortez

United Airlines says they want half of students at their in-house flight school to be women and people of color, in a commitment to improve diversity in the cockpit. Conservative voices say it’s a bad move, claiming they are making qualification secondary to filling quotas.

United Airlines is getting pushback for their latest push to improve diversity among their pilot ranks, with opponents claiming the airline is putting quotas over qualifications. In a press release, the airline announced they were setting a goal to have 50 percent of new pilots to be women and person of color by 2030.

Goal to Train 5,000 New Pilots, But Some Say Its Another Attempt to Be “Woke”

Among the major U.S.-based carriers, United is the only one to operate their own private flight school, United Aviate Academy. As the airline gets ready to start hiring new pilots to respond to the post-pandemic travel boom, the carrier says they want to introduce more diversity to the cockpit.

Under a scholarship deal with credit card partner JPMorgan Chase, the airline says they want 50 percent of their new enrollees to be women and people of color. Alongside the scholarships, the Chicago-based carrier says they will partner with Sallie Mae to offer student loans “to ensure that no highly-qualified, highly-motivated, eligible applicants will be turned away solely because they can’t afford to enroll.”

“Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program – and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a press release. “We’re excited that JPMorgan Chase has agreed to support our work to diversify our pilot ranks and create new opportunities for thousands of women and people of color who want to pursue a career in aviation.”

The move was immediately denounced by conservative voices who previously spoke out against Delta Air Lines changing positions on Georgia’s Senate Bill 202. President of ACT for America Brigitte Gabriel – whose organization is calling for boycotts of companies opposing the Georgia voting bill – wrote on Twitter: “United Airlines is now prioritizing race and gender over qualifications for hiring future pilots.” Conservative writer Nick Adams, who claims to be “Trump’s favorite author,” accused United of putting “their riders at risk all so they can make liberals happy.”

United is also partnering with three Historically Black Colleges and Universities — Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University and Hampton University – to “identify top talent and recruit them into the Aviate program.” The airline is encouraging interested people to learn more at the program’s website.

Politics Continues to Mix with Aviation’s Privately-Held Policies

Since the change of the administration, the aviation industry continues to get intertwined with the political world. Prior to the inauguration of current president Joe Biden, carriers reported an uptick of disruptions attributed to political demonstrators on flights to Washington, D.C.

View Comments (10)


  1. MRM

    April 8, 2021 at 4:55 am

    Searching for the best candidates through only specifically targeted groups does NOT ensure best candidates overall for the job.

    But hey, if they mess up, it’s only 300 or so people that are wiped off the Earth – so yeah, let’s narrow the field.

  2. Long Zhiren

    April 8, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    Only male & female pilots? What about the non-binaries? This is horribly discriminating. What if I want my pilot to be a white male supremacist or a suicidal jihadi (UA wouldn’t have to costs for landing training or retirement benefits!)?

  3. robertjw

    April 9, 2021 at 7:11 am

    I want the most qualified person flying my plane. “Diversity” doesn’t apply to hiring to fill a position that requires skill and experience and responsible for hundreds of lives. The best candidate should be hired without meeting a arbitrary quota. United, you are being duped by the woke.

  4. Sky Dreamer

    April 9, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Why do people think that if you are recruiting women and people of color that somehow they are or will be less qualified? It’s sad that that’s the assumption some people come to. United never stated that. They are going to hire QUALIFIED applicants- but are focusing on recruiting qualified applicants who are people of color and are women.

    MRM stated- “Searching for the best candidates through only specifically targeted groups does NOT ensure best candidates overall for the job.”

    I agree. Since the start of aviation that’s EXACTLY what the airlines have been doing- just seeking one targeted group- white males- while looking over candidates who don’t fit that mold. In fact the target are too low- white males are only 31% of the US population. 70% of the class should be a combination women and people of color. 50% sounds like a good target to me. I hope more companies work to have their employees reflect the demographics of what their customers and the United States look like.

  5. Aloha1

    April 9, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t care what country my pilot came from, nor what color their skin is. I only want the BEST and BRIGHTEST to fly the plane I and my family are on. The use of quotas or so-called “affirmative action” to hire is not only racist but a danger to the well being of the flying public. What the heck are you thinking UA?

  6. viking737

    April 9, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    Why not just hire the most qualified applicants without regard to gender or race?

  7. Sky Dreamer

    April 9, 2021 at 2:08 pm

    Also since white males are 31% of the population, @MRM it’s not “narrowing the field”- you are actually expanding it to include 70% of the population- you are making the field larger.

  8. Buffaloflyer

    April 10, 2021 at 8:38 am

    @Sky Dreamer, you are missing the point of what people are saying. People are not implying that women or minorities are less skilled. They just want the best people flying the plane they are traveling in and are concerned that by mandating a certain number of people from this group and that group could lead to having to give someone less skilled a job that maybe they shouldn’t have in the name of diversity because of a premandated quota. It has nothing to do with race or sex but it has everything to do with changing the standards from anything other than skill. People would be mad if they said only white males with blonde hair and blue eyes will be hired for the same reason as some of those people will be more skilled than others and in the end you will certainly select less skilled people to fit a standard that is something other than the most skilled. Look if 100 black women apply and are the most skilled by all means hire them I want them flying over some white guy who is not as skilled. It works both ways and has nothing to do with racism or sexism but everything to with the best people. I have seen it time and time again in non pilot jobs when they push someone into a role they are not suited for in the name of diversity and it not only hurts the business as the person is not up to the task but it hurts the person themselves as they fail in a role they shouldn’t have been in and then are branded a failure when it really wasn’t their fault for being set up to fail.

  9. strickerj

    April 10, 2021 at 11:16 am

    @Sky Dreamer: No, they were already considering the entire population; now they’ve set a “goal” (quota) of 50% minority/female. The implications that they were up until now only considering white males is absurd.

  10. Dr.Ells

    April 12, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    Let’s talk about medical schools and surgeons, now, too!!!

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