Boeing estimates that the aviation industry in North America will need 130,000 new pilots between 2021-2040, causing a feared, oncoming pilot shortage, with rising pilot salaries. Most of these pilots will start their careers at a regional airline before they have the option to move to a major airline. Regional airlines do not have the same name recognition that major airlines enjoy, most travelers do not even realize they are flying with a regional airline because they operate entirely under the partner major airlines’ branding. If you are a pilot hoping to fly for a regional airline, however, it’s important to understand the differences between the various regional airlines so that you can get an accurate sense of your options and career path.
Eleven regional airlines are currently operating in the United States: Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, Endeavor Air, Envoy Air, GoJet Airlines, Horizon Air, Mesa Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, PSA Airlines, Republic Airways, and SkyWest Airlines. Here are the major factors and metrics to consider when comparing regional airlines.
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The airline with the most pilots is the airline with the most opportunities. While all regional airlines will likely be hiring in the coming years, the airline with the most pilots is likely to have the most openings, the largest class sizes, the most connections and the most job opportunities. Pilots at those airlines will likely feel more secure in their employment, and they will have more opportunities to form valuable connections with their coworkers and supervisors. Each pilot hat in this infographic represents 1,000 pilots, with airlines ranging from 500 pilots, to over 5,000.
Fleet Size and Type
The size of an airline’s fleet goes hand in hand with the number of pilots they hire: the more planes they have, the more pilots they will need to fly them – approximately 10 pilots for each aircraft in the fleet to keep them operating around the clock. An airline with a larger fleet will be able to have more routes throughout the country, and they will also have more variety in the types of aircraft they fly. While the ERJ and the CRJ are by far the most common aircraft, some airlines do have other types of aircraft within their fleet.
As a pilot, your domicile is your home base. It’s where you start and end every trip. While it is possible to commute to your domicile, many pilots choose to live locally to avoid commuting. Therefore, the more domiciles an airline has, the more options a pilot has for where they will live. While a new pilot with little seniority may not have much initial choice in their domicile, an airline with many possible domiciles gives you the best chance of living somewhere you like. While some regional airlines are geographically concentrated with just a few bases, others have a much larger, nationwide footprint.
Destinations are then the number of airports an airline will fly to, across their route network. Regional airlines with a greater number of destinations offer new pilots more exposure to a variety of places they will flying to. Professionally this gives them greater experience flying to more airports and air spaces, and personally this can also be enjoyable see and visit new places.
Comparing Regional Airlines
The figures in this infographic cannot encompass all elements of the decision of where you may want to work as a new pilot, and other factors are likely to go into the decision. Company culture and stability are of course critical, as is pay and other benefits. Company reputation and the career outcomes of their previous pilots is also important for understanding your longer term career path. Some regional airlines have flow agreements, while others stand on their reputation of training high quality pilots that can get pilot jobs at a range of major airlines.
AeroGuard and SkyWest
As the data shows, SkyWest Airlines has the largest fleet and the largest number of pilots, domiciles, and destinations of any U.S. regional airline. SkyWest is also the only regional airline to partner with all four major U.S. airlines (United, Delta, American, and Alaska). That’s why AeroGuard has chosen to partner with SkyWest to offer our students a fantastic start to their careers. We work with SkyWest to provide students in our Pilot Pathway Program a clear path to becoming a professional pilot. Perks of the program include $17,500 tuition reimbursement, a guaranteed first officer interview with SkyWest, and company seniority from the first day of training. As SkyWest pilots are top recruits for every major airline, Pilot Pathway Program participants are set up for long-term career success.
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