PASSENGER PLANES SIT IDLE BECAUSE NO PILOTS WANT TO FLY THEM
PILOT SHORTAGE is a CAUSE for change.
What is happening in the Airline Industry? There are no pilots to fly those multi-million dollar airplanes. Pilots, including wannabe pilots, are changing careers. They are not choosing a professional flying career because economically it is not feasible.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificates issued from 1996 – 2005 have steadily declined from about 7,500 a year to 4,750 in 2005 an almost 40% decrease in qualified Captains. This is creating a Qualified Airline Pilot shortage, and a few things can happen.
WHAT AIRLINES WILL NOT DO
Pay higher salaries.
As a passenger, I was a little discouraged to know that my Captain, First Officer and Flight attendants (Who are responsible for my life from Point A to Point B) are worth only a few sheckles of the ticket price I paid. That’s right, they are paid $18.00-$20.00/hr. And to make matters worse, they are restricted by the FAA to a maximum of 1,000 of work a year. Many can legally apply for food stamps.
Imagine if air commerce stopped in the US for a week or even two. It did with the unfortunate surroundings of 9/11. However, the demand for air flight also dropped dramatically surrounding that incident. Demand actually dropped lower than supply, putting carriers out of business. Now imagine if Demand remained the same and the supply (meaning there were no pilots to fly those planes) ended for two weeks. Eventually, airlines would pay higher salaries, benefits, etc. in order to take advantage of the increasing demand.
WHAT AIRLINES WILL TRY TO DO
1) The airlines will continue to reduce costs anyway possible. They will spend money on lobbyist groups in Washington D.C. to relax rule making against them. The current Jet Blue debacle begs a “Passenger Bill of Rights.” This has the airlines up in arms. They DO NOT want to be restricted on how to operate. They also do not want to be held accountable for their failures.
In addition, the airlines are currently lobbying for the General Aviation user fee policy. The airlines want to charge the GA pilot thousands of dollars a year to use weather service, fly in the airspace system, land at airports, etc. The airlines are paying the majority now, but that may soon pass to the GA enthusiast.
What does that mean in the future? Fewer pilots for the airlines due to less pilot starts because of prohibitively high costs to entry. This decision by the airlines will only compound their “pilot shortage” problems, cost problems, efficiency problems, management problems, etc.
2) Airlines will reduce minimums. Pilot minimums will become lower and lower until the new SIC will sit right seat in a 250 person passenger jet with only 250 hours of experience. This individual will have been trained to so-called airline standards; however, he/she will have never soloed in ANY plane. It’s being proposed abroad because of the lack of numbers of qualified pilots to fill vacancies.
The Airlines will do this to increase supply of (LOW HOURLY WAGE) accepting pilots. There are a lot more pilots who have under 1,000 hours willing to work for $18-$20/hour vs. 3,000+ hour pilots willing to work for those type of minimum wages.
The airlines are forced to do this, because they do not want to increase wages for their frontline employees, those responsible for the safety of millions of air travelers yearly. They are trying to entice pilots with anything except respectable salaries. Here are just some examples.
(American Airline feeder) : Reduced minimums to 850 hours of Total Time (TT) and is now allowing the pilot candidate to choose their domicile. (no cost to Eagle)
(United Express, Delta Connection and Midwest feeder): Just lowered their minimums to 850 TT, now pay for training, lodging and supply uniforms
(United Express, Delta Connection, and US Airways/America West feeder): Lowered their minimums to 500 TT and are offering $5,000 bonus to those pilots with United Express experience.
(Frontier, American Connection, Continental Express, Delta Connection, United Express and US Airways Express): Offering a $2,500 bonus to new hires after passing Initial Operating Experience (IOE) if one has regional jet experience. They need over 1,000 pilots this year.
Trans States Airlines
(American Connection, US Airways and United Express): They have begun finally paying for lodging while at training and have offered a small salary based on 60 hours a month, though training is over 120 hours per month.
(Continental feeder): Hiring at 600 TT and rapid upgrades.
3). Airlines will be forced to hire and retain “SUBPAR” Employees. Those that lack the skill, quality, efficiency and know-how of what it takes to be in the airline business. They will force themselves to not “Fire” or “Terminate” employment of those in violation of rules or policies. They can’t afford to eliminate workers, because they are so short staffed, and cannot fill vacancies with current employee policies, wage contracts, etc. This leads to settling for marginal performance which will begin the complete degradation of the airline industry and experience in the United States.
4) Airlines will try to consolidate and/or split. They will do this to
a) Ensure favorable long term contracts. (SkyWest merger with ASA) and to reduce air transport supply in the market place (thus pseudo increasing the number of pilots available to fly the fewer planes). Airlines will then be able to charge higher fees for the increased demand that is present. However, if they are too aggressive too much consolidation could create transportation substitution alternatives. (Bus, train, private planes, etc.)
b) Cut costs. They will try starting new companies in order to bypass labor union strangleholds against a company lowering wages (Go Jets/Trans States and Mesaba/NWA/Compass Airlines to name a few).
Many oversees airlines are hiring US pilots at far greater wages, they include free housing, no taxes, allowance for a car, etc. It's happening already. And U.S Airlines are NOT reacting; they are not going on the offensive to retain pilots with better wages, QOL, benefits, etc. They are trying to trim fat where fat doesn't exist, change regulations, merge, and do all sorts of other things instead paying an acceptable wage and focus on GROWING the business.
Right now US airlines are trying to keep the business that they have vs. concentrating on setting themselves apart from the others. These oversees airlines are smart. They see this and are taking advantage of an industry that is broken. This could lead to economic disruption in the US.
It’s ironic. US companies have been outsourcing cheap labor in foreign markets for decades; now these foreign markets are employing our skilled labor at far greater compensation than can be obtained in the United States.
WHAT PILOTS MAY, WILL or SHOULD DO
Leave the Industry or Country. Massive pilot fleeing helps to reduce supply of those able to operate planes. Captains, both Junior and Senior will flee to where their time invested will provide them with a greater dollar reward and better QOL. As Captains flee, FO’s will welcome the short term increase in salary until they feel compelled to leave as well. It’s happening already in the industry. If the economies of scale are greater and the opportunity cost is lower for NOT being a pilot, an outflow will happen causing massive dollars to be lost by airlines not being able to provide enough supply for demand. The Pilot’s unwillingness to settle for poverty wage will eventually force airlines to 1) Pay more or 2) Reduce qualifications or 3) Go out of business.
Imagine if airlines paid $55/hr to a 1st year FO, $70 for his/her 2nd year, etc. You would get more qualified, skilled and seasoned pilots. Pilots might consider holding out to work for a certain airline, and may even choose to stay with a company long term, thus reducing continuous training costs for the airlines and maximizing employee profitability.
WHAT THE PUBLIC WILL DO
The public will continue to fly. The public stops flying when cost becomes to probative or when SAFETY is compromised (like 9/11). Should any of these two scenarios happen, the public will choose to fly less, consider alternative transportation methods or not fly at all. When this happens the U.S.A will take a severe hit to economic growth. The U.S relies on the transportation industry to move goods and services that create jobs which in turn keeps the economy rolling along. If and when that stops, something has to start it rolling again. (Pilots Wanted signs will appear)
WHAT THE U.S GOVT. WILL DO
If the airlines fail to entice pilots to work through higher salaries, QOL, benefits, pensions etc., you can bet that the govt. will mandate to airlines to provide MINIMUM salaries for pilots OR they will provide supplemental assistance (subsidies) to companies or pilot groups in order restore transportation and promote the “economic need, welfare and desire” for the pilot/individual to choose a career in aviation.
1) The government has already guaranteed airline pensions. They bailed out the airlines because the airlines are incapable to bail themselves out.
2) The airline lobby group is so strong that they just relaxed the pilot age requirement from 60 to 65. Here is a very current real time example of how Govt. is getting involved today. This will offset the pilot shortage by about 3,800 over the next 5 years. Just a small amount, but enough to cause a slight worry for all on how strong the airline lobby is.
3) In addition, the FAA needs to hire over 15,000 controllers during the next 8-10 years. The starting salary for new controllers is greater than those of airline pilots and the benefits package is far superior to any airline. For many, a choice in controlling may outweigh what the choice of being a pilot. http://www.thetracon.com/atcjobs.htm
WHAT THE NEWS MEDIA COULD DO
The news media might do well spending more time talking about potential outcomes of a “Pilot shortage” and “Low Wages” as well as the “Severe Safety Concerns” of these Low Time pilots with extremely new decision making skills.
Many don't know that their "newbie" First Officer might be an 850 hr Total Time 50 hr Multi-engine pilot, who only first saw the technologically advanced Jet Cockpit Glass display only 3 weeks prior and whose longest x-ctry trip was 250 nm in a Cessna 172. Imagine, if they knew this and demanded that qualifications were higher for airline pilots.
In addition, the public assumes pilots are well paid. They don't know that many pilots NEED to have part-time jobs to supplement their income. The public doesn’t know that many pilots are too tired to fly because they have to work extra jobs. The public doesn’t know they are at risk.
Pilots and the Airlines know what conditions are currently like, and how those conditions affect each. However, the public and government don’t know or care at this point, because everything is moving along smoothly. That is because it isn’t an issue for them now. It is only an issue when it affects them OR when they know it MIGHT affect them. We now have the recent Jet Blue debacle showcased by the media. The public (consumer) is now demanding change.