Why is there a Pilot Shortage?
For many years, the core demographic of professional airline pilots has consisted of 40–60-year-olds who entered the field prior to the year 2000 or with military training. However, due to the FAA-mandated retirement age of 65, thousands of pilots representing a large portion of the workforce are set to retire within the next few years for the main airlines in the United States. This is the primary reason for the pilot shortage in the United States.
In addition to this loss of present pilots, the demand for air travel is likely to increase for the foreseeable future. The airline sector has doubled in size every 15 years for the past 50 years, and this trend is expected to continue as flying becomes safer, cheaper, and more convenient than its alternatives.
Each aircraft in an airline’s fleet requires an average of 12 full-time pilots. Despite the fact that only two pilots are permitted in the cockpit at any given time, this ratio ensures that these planes are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With airlines putting orders for hundreds of new aircraft, thousands of additional pilots will need to be educated and hired to fly them.
For the major airlines, the solution to this pilot scarcity – at least in the near term – is quite straightforward, as they seek to hire regional airline pilots early in their careers. However, not only is this method unsustainable, but it also forces minor airlines to develop their own hiring strategies, knowing that pilots will likely leave them for the major airlines within a few years.
The airline pilot shortage will not be simple to resolve, but it creates a very good outlook for the pilots themselves, making their hiring, retention, and compensation crucial to the profitability of an airline.
How Big is the Pilot Shortage?
There have been numerous studies conducted to determine the scale and causes of the pilot shortage, with Boeing’s being the most comprehensive.
Boeing has analyzed the trends of airline recruiting, aircraft purchases, pilots in training, industry trends, macroeconomic forecasts, and other factors to develop an estimate that they periodically revise. There will be a need for 612,000 additional pilots worldwide between 2021 and 2040, with 130,000 of those needed in North America, principally the United States. As the market as a whole increases, comparable expectations exist for other personnel in the aviation business, such as mechanics and cabin crew.
This projection is supported by Airbus’ Commercial Market Outlook, which predicts that over 40,000 new aircraft will be ordered in a similar timeframe, requiring over 450,000 pilots – not considering the pilots who will retire and need to be replaced.
Globally, the factors for estimated pilot shortages vary. While this is mostly due to retirements in the United States, areas like as China and India are experiencing tremendous growth as their big populations seek to travel more domestically and beyond. This global expansion may not have a direct influence on domestic pilots, but it will result in a very attractive market for pilots as international airlines fight for the available trained pilots.
What is the Pilot Shortage’s significance for pilots?
The laws of Supply and Demand dictate that if airlines’ demand for pilots increases and the supply cannot keep up, resulting in a pilot shortage, the price for those pilots will climb. In this instance, this will be accomplished by boosting pilot wages and bonuses, from hiring bonuses to retention or performance bonuses.
Additionally, pilot promotions, whether from First Officer to Captain, Regional to Major Airline, or across aircraft types from domestic narrow-body routes to international wide-body routes, are anticipated to occur faster than in previous years. As a result of these enhancements, the pay of these pilots at the forefront of the hiring curve will increase, as will their job security.
Pilot seniority affects everything for airline pilots, including salary, routes, aircraft, domiciles, and HR benefits. This means that pilots employed in the coming years will reap the benefits for decades to come, as they will quickly attain seniority. All of these facts indicate that there has never been a better moment to become a pilot and take advantage of the pilot shortage.