Flight crew members were in the spotlight recently after American Airlines announced their big restructuring plans. A few regional airlines that work with AA on their contracts have just announced that they will award $100,000 bonuses to experienced First Officers from other regions if they switch to those airlines during this time period. Envoy Air and three other carriers are offering these bonuses until the end of the year. This is just one of many incentives that should help alleviate this shortage because there are not enough experienced pilots at AA.
Piedmont Airlines is offering a $100,000 bonus to direct-entry captains. Additionally, they are adding a $75,000 bonus to FOs who are close to upgrading to captain. US law states that pilots must complete 1,000 flight hours in their current position before they can be promoted.
Envoy Air is offering a $100,000 bonus to pilots with a minimum of 950 Commercial Airline flying hours who are ready to start their training to become a captain. PSA is offering a $75,000 bonus to captains who fly with 500-950 hours on qualifying Part 121 or 135 flights with Envoy Air.
These bonuses are an attempt to incentivize regional pilots in order to lure them from other air carriers. As the global pilot shortage escalates, airlines are shedding back-office staff and future building their fleets at a quicker rate in order to chase ever-dwindling talent in the industry. This is bad news for airlines and the markets they serve, but for qualified pilots who exist or new recruits entering the industry, there’s never been a better time to be a pilot.
The looming pilot shortage
There are currently about 8,000 pilots missing in America. Without these pilots, many routes go underserved or unserved altogether. This shortage has hit regional airlines the hardest. When a pilot meets the qualifications to become an airline pilot, they normally start with a regional airline such as Envoy or PSA.
These smaller regional airlines fly smaller 50-80 passenger regional jets and turboprops to smaller destinations. They’re contracted by large airlines, like American or United, to operate flights on these routes. For example, if you were to board a flight from Denver, Colorado, to Billings, Montana and booked it on United Airlines, the ticket would say United Airlines. However, the plane could end up being owned and operated by a regional airline like SkyWest Airlines.
As the pilot shortage intensifies and more majors take on lower-quality pilots, bigger gaps are being created in the regional airline base. As more captains leave their regionals to fly with a major airline, those that are left are left to limply continue operating with limited talent while they try to live up to a predetermined hour requirement.
It’s tough when seasoned pilots go out of business and it becomes difficult to find experienced professional flying opportunities. This is why companies like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines are doing whatever they can to replace those experienced professionals with new pilots from other companies.