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What Pilot Shortage? Spirit Airlines CEO Sides With Pilot Unions That Call It A Myth

Spirit Airlines

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CEO Ted Christie countered standard aviation business knowledge on the alleged pilot scarcity, saying Thursday that the long-term pattern exhibits a adequate provide of pilots.

While that contradicts the view of different airways, Christie gave the impression to be usually in settlement with the 2 largest pilot unions, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association.

Speaking on Spirit’s first-quarter earnings name, Christie stated the pilot pipeline will return to a historic norm of manufacturing the wanted 10,000 pilots per 12 months.

The business’s outlook was summarized final month on United Airlines April twenty first earnings name, when CEO Scott Kirby stated that airways want to rent 13,000 pilots this 12 months however coaching produces simply 5,000 to 7,000 pilots yearly.

In a tweet posted on April 28, ALPA President Joe DePete referred to an ALPA place paper headed “More Than Enough Pilots to Meet U.S. Airline Demand: Debunking the Pilot Shortage Myth.”

APA spokesman Dennis Tajer stated Friday, “We don’t think there are not enough pilots. The crisis we see today is because demand is coming in so quickly and management didn’t plan for it. Management is failing to connect the pilots to the airlines.”

On the Spirit name, Christie stated that whereas pilot coaching was disrupted by the pandemic, knowledge exhibits that “submit that dip, the traces have been all trending up. More individuals have been making use of to get pilot licenses, ATP licenses and teacher licenses. The covid pandemic impacted that, principally as a result of none of us have been hiring pilots in 2020.

“We anticipate you could interpret that data to suggest it will probably be closer to what you’ve experienced in the past,” Christie stated. “Supply and demand will work itself out over that time frame.

In any case, Christie stated, Spirit has adequate pilots and decrease prices. “We are more efficient than they are at the majors because we push more units [with] more seats per aircraft,” he stated. “We nonetheless preserve a unit value benefit it doesn’t matter what.

“This is a good profession,” he famous. Spirit spokespersons didn’t reply to emails.

On the United name in April, Kirby declared, “The pilot scarcity is actual, not less than for the subsequent 5 years.

“Most airlines will not be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five years,” he stated.

Kirby stated U.S. pilot coaching colleges produce between 5,000 to 7,000 pilots a 12 months. “This year, the intent is to hire 13,000 pilots, [and] even more next year, [but] I don’t think [availability] gets to 13,000 any time in the next five or six years.”

In basic, the pandemic led some pilots to retire or take buyouts because the business downsized rapidly, and now passengers are returning extra rapidly than anticipated, making a discrepancy.

Airlines led by Alaska and JetBlue have reduce on deliberate schedules because of the lack of crews, and regional carriers have reduce on flying. Spirit, additionally impacted, stated final week that beginning June 5 it’ll stop flying Akron-Canton Airport to Orlando, Fla., and can droop seasonal journeys to Myrtle Beach, Tampa and Fort Myers till November, The Akron Beacon-Journal reported.

Tajer stated the disaster displays the sluggish tempo within the pipeline from pilot coaching to precise flying and the tendency by airways to schedule pilots to the boundaries of FAA maximums, which imply that climate disruptions can’t be accommodated.

In the pipeline, “there is a gap from getting a license to getting the flight experience,” Tajer stated. As for the FAA maximums, the commonest restrict pilots to eight or 9 hours of precise flight time per day and to 14 hours of responsibility time per day, which incorporates airport sitting time. If pilots are already scheduled to the utmost, then their schedules can’t be mechanically prolonged to accommodate climate occasions.

According to a latest ALPA reality sheet, “Regardless of what the airlines are saying, there is no pilot shortage and there are more than enough certificated pilots to meet demand here in the United States. The aviation industry is currently producing more pilots capable of immediately stepping into the right seat than there are jobs available to them.”

ALPA cited Federal Aviation Administration statistics which present that 15,591 new pilot licenses have been issued between 2019 and 2021. During the identical time, roughly 9,671 pilots retired, making a surplus of about 6,000 obtainable pilots, ALPA stated.

“While the pandemic accelerated some early retirements at the airlines in 2020, the average yearly attrition of pilots reaching age 65 is approximately 2,500 [while] the average number of [pilot licenses] issued per year since 2012 is 6,500,” ALPA stated. “Growth is anticipated, but even when that numbers stays the identical, that equates to a surplus of 4,000 pilots yearly.

“Five of the seven largest passenger air carriers currently have more pilots now than they did in 2019 prior to the pandemic,” ALPA stated. “Hiring at the major airlines has also increased at a rate never before seen. Between September 2019 and February 2020, the total number of pilots hired at the majors was 2,812. By comparison, from September 2021 to February 2022, the total number of pilots hired was 5,313—still under the total number of [licenses] issued during this time.”

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