A rare sighting in the aviation industry over the past year is becoming more common: help wanted signs.
Several U.S. airlines have recently resumed hiring pilots or plan to this year, the latest sign the industry expects travel demand to continue rising.
Before the pandemic hit, airlines were preparing for a wave of pilot retirements, which are federally mandated when pilots reach age 65. At American Airlines, for example, more than 7,200 pilots of the airline’s more than 15,000 pilots are set to turn 65 over the next decade. But last year’s plunge in travel forced them to cut labor costs, which included offering early retirement packages to pilots.
Now as travel demand returns, they are shifting their focus back toward hiring again. Pilot training can be time consuming and costly. So airlines plan years in advance, generally so they can have enough pilots to handle peak summer travel seasons ahead.
United last week told staff it plans to resume pilot hiring, starting with some 300 pilots that had a new-hire date or conditional job offer when Covid-19 derailed those plans last year.
It also said it plans to start training the first class in its flight school this year, with the aim of training 5,000 pilots of the 10,000 it expects to need over the next decade…