Airline hiring surge boosts interest in aspiring pilots


Associated Press

DALLAS

Major U.S. airlines are hiring pilots at a rate not seen since before 9/11, and that is encouraging more young people to consider a career in the cockpit.

Hiring is likely to remain brisk for years. Smaller airlines in the U.S. are struggling with a shortage that will continue as they lose pilots to the bigger carriers, which in turn will need to replace thousands of retiring pilots over the next few years.

Aircraft maker Boeing predicts that the U.S. will need 117,000 new pilots by 2036.

Just a decade ago, thousands of pilots were furloughed and some abandoned the profession.

The shortage has been felt most keenly at regional carriers where many pilots start their airline careers.

Last summer, Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air canceled more than 300 flights over two months for lack of pilots. Republic Airways filed for bankruptcy protection in 2016, citing a pilot shortage that forced it to ground flights.

Many regional carriers fly smaller planes for American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express.

Signing bonuses and higher pay have helped them hire more than 17,000 pilots in the past four years, but that only replaced those who moved up to the major carriers, according to the Regional Airline Association.

Demand at the major airlines is expected to grow as thousands of pilots at American, Delta, United and Southwest hit the U.S. mandatory pilot-retirement age of 65 in the next several years.

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