A few years have passed since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, and flight restrictions have been eased. People are allowed to travel by air again, but even so, the airline industry is still struggling to recover from its losses and is facing big challenges like a severe pilot shortage. Although the lack of new pilots has been an ongoing problem for the industry even before the pandemic, it has become more paramount in recent years.
During the pre-pandemic period, the main reason for the number of pilots shrinking was that many of the pilots are getting too old to fly planes. Most of the active pilots are from the baby boomer generation. With the retirement age set at 65, pilots born from that generation won’t be able to legally fly commercial planes by 2029. When the pandemic hit, many airlines were forced to fire, furlough, or offer pilots early retirement packages to help cut down their losses. Now that the demand for air travel has increased, there aren’t enough pilots to handle all the flights.
That’s why airlines are finding and creating solutions to address this shortage quickly to reduce the number of flight delays and cancellations. Here are some things airline companies are doing to increase their number of pilots.
Partnering Closely with Pilot Schools
Pilot schools are, of course, the best sources for hiring new pilots. After all, students that undergo and pass commercial pilot training learn the necessary skills and habits to be entrusted to fly commercial planes. Typically, student pilots will have to apply to numerous airlines and be interviewed to get a chance to be hired. This process may take a few months, which can be a long wait time for aspiring pilots. To shorten and streamline the procedure, a lot of airlines are closely partnering with pilot schools. This way, they can easily tap into the pool of the new generation pilots and offer them jobs the moment the students graduate.
Apart from providing student pilots with a hassle-free way to get into the aviation industry, some airlines are offering flight training subsidies. These subsidies give student pilots a way to enroll in commercial pilot training courses without having to worry so much about the cost. Airlines who offer these subsidies can either cover a portion of the cost of the course or provide student pilots with low-interest loans. As a result, student pilots taking pilot training in the Philippines can immediately start their aviation career with any airline that’s partnered with their chosen flight school after their training.
Expanding Their Workforce Qualifications
For the longest time, the pilot population has been predominantly made up of older males, but over the years, the statistics are slowly starting to change. Many young female and male adults are aspiring to become successful commercial pilots. Airline companies are expanding their hiring to include younger pilot to replace retiring pilots and boost their cockpit crew. Aside from hiring younger pilots, some airlines are also open to hiring pilots from different countries. This is a great way to address the pilot shortage issue while giving unemployed pilots work.
Reducing the Number of Planes in Their Fleet
One unconventional solution to the ongoing pilot shortage is to reduce the number of aircraft in the fleet. Since there aren’t enough pilots to operate the planes, many airlines have resorted to reducing their fleet to start making revenue after travel bans have been lifted. Unfortunately, this solution has some drawbacks. Having a smaller fleet means that airlines can only open a few flights each day. They’ll also have to raise the prices of their tickets to make up for their losses, which could turn off a lot of travelers and prevent them from booking tickets from the airlines. Nevertheless, this is a risk a lot of airline companies are willing to make because it’s one of the ways they can keep operations going during the shortage.
Many major airlines are considering opening their own flight schools. This way, they’re able to entice aspiring pilots to work for them, as well as get better control over their staffing needs. To make themselves different from aviation schools, a lot of airline companies are adding incentives to their courses to make their programs more attractive. Examples of such incentives include complete student financing with zero interest, priority status for employment, the immediate start of company longevity, and receiving flight benefits.
During the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation sector was at a standstill. With countries imposing travel bans and tough flight restrictions, a lot of airline companies had to let go of a lot of their pilots to be able to stay afloat. Now that air travel is back, airlines don’t have enough pilots to spare to meet the demands of their passengers. That’s why they’re coming up with several solutions to address the pilot shortage.