Pilot Hiring Begins to Bounce Back
Prior to the past year, the commercial airlines had been aggressively hiring for years, in an attempt to address the pilot shortages accompanying an industry that was experiencing exponential growth in a short period of time. However, hiring and training programs unexpectedly halted on a dime as the pandemic forced thousands of furloughs. Now, a year after the pandemic first started, airlines are experiencing a beginning to an end as they work to hire pilots once more – in some cases in large numbers.
As COVID vaccinations roll out and states are loosening restrictions, airlines are seeing significant improvement in domestic air travel and project it will only get better by summer 2021. Many regional airlines are already beginning to post First Officer positions for hire across their websites and social media accounts. As of this month, Endeavor Air has placed open pilot positions on their pilot careers webpage, Horizon air has also opened first officer applications this month, and Mesa Airlines has positions open on their career webpage. According to AeroCrew News, PSA Airlines is also hiring in large numbers, planning training classes of 30 new hires every two weeks starting in April. Air Wisconsin Airlines has announced on their own social channels that they are now hiring with a $5,000 sign-on bonus. SkyWest Airlines told AeroGuard this week, that while exact details aren’t yet available, they will also be hiring new pilots in 2021.
Regional airlines aren’t the only carriers getting prepared to hire additional pilots. Spirit Airlines has already announced it will begin to hire new pilots and flight attendants as early as this month in anticipation of leisure travel returning to normal levels this summer. Spirit Airlines CEO, Ted Christie, told CNBC “We’ll be a big hirer again. Growth in the airline industry is going to be at the leisure end, and we’re the primary server of that guest.”
Frontier Airlines took in applications at the end of January for 100 pilot slots they had open. Frontier is not only hiring but is in growth mode as well. They’ve recently opened a new base in Miami and announced future plans for additional bases within the coming year as well as an expansion of routes to accompany their order of 150 new aircraft they just placed with Airbus.
Atlas Air, FedEx and UPS have already hired 91 pilots since the start of the year. Additionally, FAPA.aero reports that FedEx plans to hire 52 pilots a month until their staffing needs are met for a total projection of around 560 pilots for the 2021 year and UPS plans to hire 227 additional pilots for year.
Some airlines have even made significant changes to their operations in the wake of the pandemic and to continue to hire pilots. Atlas Worldwide, which is the parent company of Atlas Air, Southern Air Holdings and Titan Aviation, told AeroGuard this week, “In the face of unrelenting operational complexities driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, we added widebody capacity, increased aircraft utilization and grew block hours to carry historic volumes, including essential goods that businesses, communities and individuals require, as well as holiday e-commerce packages. We continue to hire pilots to support demand and further growth.”
While some major airlines still have new hiring suspended, they are still sharing positive news within the industry. As of February 23, 2021, United Airlines resumed their initiatives on interviewing eligible applicants for future openings and Delta Airlines has announced plans to reactivate all their pilots by October including bringing back at least 400 pilots by this summer. Additionally, all Delta pilots are back to full pay thanks to the latest round of government aid. John Laughter, VP of Delta’s Flight Operations stated “We’re excited to be able to offer 400 full-time pilot positions now, but it’s important to remember that the recovery road ahead of us will be long and choppy. However, we’re cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccinations roll out across the world, and we look forward to restoring all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues.”
Late last week, American Airlines told 14,000 of their employees that were facing furlough to rip up their WARN notices that they had previously received, also due to the latest round of government aid. Additionally, Southwest Airlines CEO, Gary Kelly, told the Wall Street Journal this week, that after 50 years in business “We’ve never had a furlough. We’ve never had a layoff. We’ve never had a pay cut. And then we get into 2020 and the unspeakable happens. We’ve survived this because of the government grants and obviously made the commitments to keep people on the payroll. But we’re the only airline that hasn’t cut hours, cut payrates, furloughed, laid off, and I’m very proud of that. So, our record is intact. And the support made the difference. And I promised our people we won’t have any kind of actions along those lines here in 2021.”
From an increase in aircraft purchases to an increase in passenger travel, and now an increase in pilot hiring, the future of aviation is looking bright for aspiring pilots everywhere still looking to make piloting their future career.
You can use our Pilot Hiring Tracker to stay on top of which airlines are hiring, which we will keep updated over the coming months as pilot hiring returns to the industry