Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Still Recovering: US Airline Jobs Are Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery of the aviation industry ahead, it is completely steamrolled. From the return of aircraft types that were gone forever, to the resumption and addition of international routes to the removal of mask-mandates on aircraft – the aviation industry has undoubtedly returned to almost normalcy. Staffing issues, except for one significant hurdle. Especially in the airline industry, which is still taking a long time to replace the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic.

statistics of conflict

Fears of contracting the virus and stay-at-home orders led to a dramatic drop in demand for travelers. Flights were empty, and in response, the airline industry had to cut thousands of full-time and even part-time jobs for cargo and passenger airlines.

Even as recovery is in full swing for other aspects of the airline industry in terms of fleet, routes and passenger demand, airlines are still struggling to fill the gap of lost jobs. In December 2021, US cargo and passenger airlines managed to add more than 20,000 jobs, yet employment remained 2.9% below pre-pandemic levels. And in January 2022, the number of jobs added rose slightly to more than 3,400, leaving unemployment at 2.3% below pre-pandemic levels.

In terms of passenger airlines, American Airlines took the lead, adding over 1,300 employees, and Southwest Airlines followed with 1,132 employees. On the other hand, there was only a marginal increase of 368 employees in January, with FedEx leading the cargo carriers.

pilot shortage

Even though the numbers are steadily improving, there is still a significant shortage of pilots. The growth of commercial pilot certificate holders continued from 2015 to 2020 when the pandemic slowed things down. With aviation academies opening up more slots and as airlines are actively hiring, there were about 17% fewer active commercial pilot certificates in 2021 compared to 2009.

It probably doesn’t help that hiring a pilot isn’t as easy as it sounds, given the vigorous months of training required that require both money and time. Adding to that flight crew can only operate a specific set of hours, airlines require sufficient operable crew on hand and a fair amount of replacement crew for inclement weather that can cause delays.

The number of commercial pilots has decreased significantly over the past 15 years. Photo: NBC News

The shortage of commercial pilots has undoubtedly led to a supplement-series issue, although demand remains strong. Airlines have faced massive cancellations in the past few months. Just yesterday, around 220 flights were canceled in the US. That number jumped today with more than 230 flight cancellations.

problems faced by passengers

After a two-year pause, the upcoming summer event will probably be the busiest. Flight cancellations are a growing trend, coupled with reductions in flight schedules just ahead of a busy travel period, which is already causing a lot of headaches for passengers.

Flight cancellations are believed to be a common problem at smaller, lower-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines – in which the former airline canceled more flights from April 8 to April 17 than any other airline.

Big carriers like American Airlines are confident about being a bit more reliable, as the airline’s latest chief executive, Robert Isom, made it clear that he was thinking about passengers:

“People really need to feel that they have control of their itineraries and we give them control by making sure they get to where they want to go on time. I couldn’t be more clear about that . Other airlines are really struggling.”

Unfortunately, problems with reliability are only part of the headache, as airlines have had to raise the prices of their airfares due to a lack of operational human resources and rising fuel costs. Domestic round trips now cost an average of $330 through April and are likely to increase slightly further to an estimated $360 through May.

For airlines and travelers alike, everyone is undoubtedly hoping for smooth weather this summer to allow flights to take off instead of being kept on runways.

Source: NBC News


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