Faced with staff shortages, airlines are canceling thousands of flights ahead of the busy summer travel season.
Leading the way, according to The Dallas Morning News, is Southwest Airlines, which has cut almost 20,000 flights. His goal is to hire 10,000 new workers this year.
“I walk through the Whataburger Drive-Thru, pay and get my bag, and the job application is attached to the bag,” Southwest CEO Robert Jordan joked this year. “That’s what it’s come to.”
The shortage of pilots was especially acute. American airlines are trying to hire at least 12,000 pilots this year, according to one consulting agency.
“Pilot shortages in the industry are real and most airlines simply won’t be able to deliver on their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots for at least the next five plus years,” United Airlines CEO Scott said. Kirby said at the quarterly income statement in April.
Meanwhile, Delta said it was canceling 100 daily flights from July 1 through August. 7th in the US and Latin America.
Pilot unions such as the Air Line Pilots Association dispute the shortage, pointing to data showing nearly 8,000 new commercial pilots have been certified in the past 12 months. They argue that service cuts are instead being used as an excuse to boost profits by reducing training and safety requirements.
But most pilots with commercial licenses can’t fly major carriers, said Keith Darby, president of KitDarby.com Aviation Consulting. Training people to fly aircraft, even for regional carriers, can take up to five years and cost millions of dollars, Darby said in an interview.
Smaller airlines and routes are bearing the brunt of the shortage, Darby said. He pointed to SkyWest Airlines, a Utah-based airline with a hub at Los Angeles International Airport, which said in April it had lost 5 percent of its pilots to larger carriers. SkyWest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We have a very serious problem,” Darby said. “Delta, United, America — they park regional planes and take the most profitable routes. Everyone else is getting smaller or not served at all.”
Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group, which flies for American, United and shipping logistics company DHL, lost millions of dollars in the first quarter of fiscal 2022 due to flight cuts, the company said in its February earnings report.
“We never understood these dropout rates,” Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein told CNBC’s Leslie Josephs last month. “If we don’t fly our planes, we will lose money. You’ve seen our quarterly numbers.
He said it would take Mesa a full four months to replace one pilot.
“We could use 200 pilots right now,” he said.