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Why is there a pilot shortage in the US?

Airline Pilots Commuting
FILE – In this Nov. 24, 2004 file photo, a United Airlines pilot walks to security check point at O’Hare International Airport, in Chicago. One in five airline pilots lives at least 750 miles from work, according to a study by scientific advisers to the government, raising concerns that long commutes to airports could lead to fatigue in the cockpit. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, file)

The dearth of commercially trained aviators is expected to ground July 4th travelers and is already leading to thousands of cancelled flights a day in the U.S.  So why is there a pilot shortage?

Many pilots are aging out of the job and retiring.  Plus,  during the pandemic, thousands of pilots who refused the Biden administrations mandatory vaccine order were fired or offered early retirement packages.  Others were fired or furloughed because of lack of travel demand.   As of  2019, baby boomers made up almost half the pilots in the air and now they want to retire on the ground.

As more and more Americans are booking flights post pandemic, there aren’t enough pilots to fly all the planes needed to meet the demand.

U.S. airlines need to hire 12,000 pilots this year alone to meet the demand and the hiring pool does not meet amount.

So numerous solutions are being floated to expand the universe of pilots — including raising the retirement age, reducing the number of required training hours for commercial pilots and providing greater financial aid and other incentives for young people to choose the profession.

The union representing American Airlines warned about these very real staffing shortages when employees starting losing their jobs for refusing to get the COVID vaccine.

“What we’re looking for is to ensure that there’s a pilot in the cockpit,” said Dennis Tajer, the spokesman for Allied Pilots Association. “If you suddenly one day have 4,000-plus pilots that are not able to fly, that’s a big deal. That’s worse than this past summer.”

American Airlines announced it is cutting service to four cities because of the pilot shortage.  As of Sept. 7,  American will no longer serve Islip or Ithaca in New York; Toledo, Ohio; or Dubuque, Iowa.

In addition, Delta is cutting back flights from several major cities after adjusting schedules due to staffing shortages.

Because of the mounting logistical snarls, Delta relieved pressure by proactively thinning the schedule over Memorial Day and through the balance of June.  Now, Delta announced it will also be “cutting around 100 daily flights from its schedule from July 1 through Aug. 7 to help the company get ahead of any logistical issues.”

Meanwhile, United Airlines is cutting 50 daily domestic flights from Newark Liberty International Airport starting July 1 due to capacity constraints, airport construction and air traffic control — not airline staffing shortfalls.