Pilot Shortage Forcing Airlines to Cut Back on Flights

One industry expert estimated a shortage of up to 250,000 pilots, which could take years to build back up

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A severe shortage of pilots is forcing commercial airlines to cut back on flights.

American, for example, has grounded 100 regional jets because it has no one to fly them.  Steve Cunningham and Ryan Horgan run National Flight Simulator. They said there is no quick fix for this.

"Upwards to 250,000 pilot shortage so we’re gearing up to do things to meet that challenge," Cunningham said.

A challenge expected to last five to six years.  Many pilots retired during the pandemic when the airlines offered them deals to leave in order to save money. COVID-19 also slowed down pilot training and hiring. 

"The airlines are getting smarter now. They’re increasing pay. They’re making it more attractive as a career path," Horgan said.

Pilots we spoke with who did not want to go on camera acknowledged the shortage and said the retirement age might be raised to 67 to help.

"Right now the retirement age is 65 and even at 65 the 65-year-old pilot has to have a younger pilot in the cockpit with him or her," Cunningham said.

The travel industry is feeling the effects of the shortage with fewer flights, meaning higher prices as cheap travel faded away as the pandemic waned. 

"So both airline prices and rental car and hotel are seeing up to 60-85% increases from past prices," noted Robin Hutson, who owns Luxe Recess.

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