United opens flight school, airlines find creative solutions as industry faces looming pilot shortage

United Airlines last week announced the start of its training program as the airline industry faces down projections of a massive pilot shortage over the next decade.

The United Aviate Academy is the first flight school owned by a major US airline. United welcomed its first class of students, which is made up of 80% women or people of color.

“Our pilots are the best in the industry and have set a high standard of excellence,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a press release. “Recruiting and training even more people who have that same level of talent, motivation and skill is the right thing to do and will make us an even better airline.”

United Aviate Academy’s first class of students is 80% women or people of color, outpacing the airline’s goal to train about 5,000 new pilots at the school by 2030 with at least half being women or people of color. (Fox News)

The academy provides an important source for recruitment as the industry faces a potential shortage of around 34,000 pilots globally by 2025, according to analytics firm Oliver Wyman. The shortage will result from an aging pilot population and career changes for furloughed pilots who couldn’t wait for the airlines to rehire them.

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United projects that the academy will train around 5,000 new pilots by 2030 – fulfilling half of its plan to recruit 10,000 new pilots in that time to combat the shortage.

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Other airlines have looked to utilize partnerships with existing pilot schools and programs in order to help fill that global gap.

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American Airlines (AA) launched its Cadet Academy in 2018, which works with partner schools and provides financing to help aspiring pilots earn their license and eventually find employment at a major carrier.

American Airlines

An American plane landing this week at LaGuardia Airport in New York City Photo: justin lane/EPA/Shutterstock

“We continue to increase our pilot hiring efforts this year and beyond, and are continuously investing in both our pilot training and cadet academy programs,” an AA spokesperson told FOX Business. “Our goal is to grow the pilot population incrementally and remove barriers for students while creating greater diversity amongst the future and current pilot ranks.”

AA also told Fox that the company hired more than 500 pilots in 2021 and expects to recruit more than 2,000 in the coming year.

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And Delta Airlines announced during its Q4 financial results conference call that it has recruited between 100 and 200 pilots a month and expects that pace to continue “for some period of time.”

“Certainly through 2022 and into 2023,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but that’s the pace that we’re hiring at.”

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A Delta spokesperson also pointed FOX Business to an announcement last year that the company’s Propel program added two more universities to its pathing.

Airlines will need to continue such aggressive recruiting if they are overcome a shortage that may include 12,000 pilots in North America alone by 2023.

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