American Airlines, based in Forth Worth, Texas, has had to ground 150 of its regional aircraft due to an ongoing pilot shortage, CEO Robert Isom said recently while speaking at the Bernstein 39th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference.
"We would deploy properly to markets that aren't being served. We would do that today. It's just we don't have the pilots," Isom told the conference.
While airlines have struggled in the past to meet the heightened demand of summer months, this summer is seeing record-high demand as the world reopens after the pandemic. American's ability to meet the demand is also restricted by a lack of pilots to fly the aircraft. The end of the Covid-19 pandemic has not only seen record numbers of travelers taking to the skies but has also highlighted the severity of the pilot shortage.
Isom is already looking ahead and has said that his airline anticipates acquiring new pilots for its regional network over the next 18 to 24 months as it looks for solutions. Once those pilots have joined the airline, it will reintroduce the grounded planes back into its regular flight schedule, according to The Epoch Times.
"American anticipates getting more piots over the next 18 to 24 months for the regional network, and those aircraft would be put back into service in a fashion that is going to produce unit revenues that are very favorable," Isom said.
The plight of American Airlines is hardly an isolated one with the entire airline industry expected to see a deficit of approximately 80,000 pilots by 2032, according to a report by Oliver Wyman.
The report highlighted a flood of early retirements due to the pandemic, a mandatory retirement age of 65, and an older workforce with a "shrinking pool o potential pilots from the military, and a tough value proposition for perspective [sic] candidates outside the military" as causes for the problematic and persistent shortage.
Meanwhile, many observers are hardly surprised by the shortage, given that the Biden administration pressured airlines to force vaccinations on thier workforce during the pandemic in an effort to increase inoculation rates.
In October 2021, Doug Parker, American Airlines' former CEO told employees, "While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines."
American is hardly the only airline to struggle with the after-effects of its own covid policy. A group of United Airlines pilots and other workers have filed lawsuits against the airline for its treatment of them after denying their religious exemptions for the vaccine. Workers for that airline not only lost their jobs but also had their medical benefits canceled and access to their company retirement accounts blocked.
A pilot shortage is all but expected given their treatment during the pandemic and the enforcement of draconian policies. Unfortunately, pilots and other airline employees aren't the only ones dealing with the shortage and consequences, as delays, diversions, and cancellations pile up along with the lines of stranded and weary travelers.
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