The pilot shortage in the United States is rapidly worsening, and experts are warning of a “tsunami of pilot retirements” in the coming years. As the demand for air travel rises, the cost of airline tickets continues to rise as well.
Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard from experts on Wednesday who warned of the looming pilot shortage. Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the Regional Airline Association, said that over 50% of current commercial pilots will be forced to retire within the next 15 years because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Meanwhile, only 8% of pilots are below the age of 30, due to the high cost of flight education. A study from consulting group Oliver Wyman predicts that there will be a shortage of 60,000 pilots by the end of the decade.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in an earnings call earlier this year that the firm, which will hire 8,000 pilots this year alongside Delta, Southwest, and American, believes that “pilots are and will remain a significant constraint on capacity.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R–MO), a general aviation pilot, said in his opening remarks that “pilot training has remained static over the years.” He added that another current rule from the Federal Aviation Administration requiring pilots to have completed 1,500 hours of flight experience before flying a commercial airliner should be reconsidered because “the number of flight hours you have are not a reflection of what kind of pilot you are,” as evidenced by a study from the agency.
FlightSafety International CEO Brad Thress testified that simulators can provide pilots with experience while saving costs and offering a wider array of flight scenarios. Proposals from Rep. Chip Roy (R–TX) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–SC) would increase the commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 to ease staffing pressures, a move that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg opposes.
The pilot shortage has caused a dramatic increase in airfare in the United States. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ticket prices have increased nearly 18% year–over–year.
The airline industry in the United States is in a precarious position, and the worsening pilot shortage is a major source of concern. The cost of airline tickets is rising due to the shortage of available pilots, and the problem appears to be getting worse. It remains to be seen how the government will address this issue and if it will be able to prevent further increases in airfare.