By Alice Seeley
The United States is currently dealing with its worst pilot shortage in history. Faced with the lack of pilots and flight attendants, airlines are canceling thousands of flights.
Southwest Airlines canceled almost 20,000 summer flights, and Delta announced its plans to cancel 100 daily flights from July 1 through August 7 in the U.S. and Latin America due to the pilot shortage. U.S airlines are trying to hire at least 12,000 pilots combined this year to fix this shortage which is more than double the previous record in annual hiring, according to Kit Darby, a pilot pay consultant, and a retired United captain.
American Airlines pilot union stated many airlines encouraged pilots to retire early during the pandemic even though the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulations already require pilots to retire when they are 65 years old regardless of their physical health. Now, Congress may consider raising the retirement age to help end the pilot shortage.
In United Airlines’ quarterly earnings call, CEO Scott Kirby stated, “the pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years.”
Mesa Air Group, which flies for American and United Airlines, lost nearly $43 million last quarter due to the shortage.
“We never fathomed attrition levels like this. If we don’t fly our airplanes, we lose money,” Mesa Air’s CEO Jonathan Ornstein said.