Spirit Airlines Adds New Partnership To Bolster Pilot Hiring

Spirit has made headway in its recruitment for new airline crew this week, announcing a partnership with Jacksonville-based ATP Flight School, the largest aviation school in the United States. This news comes after a recent announcement of their intent to hire more cockpit and cabin crew ahead of a projected increase in demand.

Back In Demand

Whilst the pandemic may have turned the initial pilot shortage into a surplus, the recent relaxation of regulations has seen demand creep back up. With many crew having faced pandemic induced early retirements, a shortage of 12,000 pilots in the United States alone is expected by 2023.

Carriers in the United States have found particular difficulty in recruiting regional pilots. Spirit Airlines is no stranger to these same shortages, in the past year the airline has seen frequent delays and cancellations which has been pinned on operational challenges from their lack of staff. With the airline expecting a return to 2019 capacity levels by this summer, the partnership is highly welcomed.


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The process to become a pilot can be a long and expensive one. Photo: Spirit Airlines

Spirit In The Sky

The Spirit Direct program, led by ATP Flight School will streamline the process for aspiring pilots looking to join Spirit. Taking only two years, students will rapidly progress from ATP’s Piper Seminoles to Spirit’s A320 flight deck.

The school has worked alongside a range of US carriers; however, Spirit Airline’s pathway is unique in that students will be able to interview with the airline after just 500 hours of flight time as an instructor.

Before entering the program, students are required to enroll on ATP Flight School’s Airline Career Pilot Program, gaining their FAA commercial multi-engine pilot certificate and instrument rating. After graduation, ATP helps students build experience as a flight instructor, until they’re able to qualify for Spirit’s airline hiring minimums.

When 1500 flight hours have been reached, students will undertake a jet transition program and ATP’s Pilot Certification Training Program before taking their place at Spirit as a first officer. The course includes training within a full-motion Airbus A320 simulator, ensuring an easy changeover.


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The streamlined program will ease the process for student pilots looking to join airlines. Photo: Piper Aircraft

Costly Career Choice

The pilot shortage had been a major concern for airlines in the years leading up to the pandemic, where it had become an in-demand position. During the first stages of the pandemic, the British Airline Pilots’ Association warned individuals about undertaking training due to skyrocketing costs and a then unstable market. However, ATP anticipates that in the coming years, the United States will need over 200,000 new pilots, with an 80,000 within the current workforce approaching mandatory retirement age.

With pricey licenses, certifications and flight lessons, the cost to become a pilot can quickly stack up, often exceeding $130,000.

ATP’s Airline program has set out to fix this issue, costing just $87,995 to start training from scratch, or $68,995 for those with a private pilot certificate. The school also offer incentives in the way of tuition reimbursement and fast-tracked airline careers, making it a more accessible career path for many aspiring pilots.

What are your thoughts on Spirit and ATP’s Direct Airline Program? Will this help remedy the expected post-pandemic pilot shortages? Let us know by leaving a comment.


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