The Career Advisor
Q: I am thinking about an airline flying career. What's the real hiring picture today?--Cindy, Ann Arbor, Michigan
A: The term pilot shortage has made an appearance periodically throughout the industry's history, which underscores the cyclical nature of airline hiring. It is an industry of "boom and bust." We appear to be at the end of the bust. Julie Johnsson, a writer for the Chicago Tribune, recently came up with a well-researched status report in an article titled, "Pilots Turning Scarce as Demand Takes Wing."
Nearly 10,000 pilots were sidelined after September 11, 2001. Those who survived saw their pay cut by as much as 35 percent. Candidly, as the airlines are now recovering, many of those furloughed pilots have said, "Not coming back. I've had enough." Johnsson's article maintains that, "After slashing pilot jobs and pay to survive the last turndown, old-line carriers may find it tougher to hire pilots to keep pace with the industry's rebound."
Kit Darby, whose AIR, Inc. is the airline industry's hiring trend watchdog, says, "It's a wild and crazy time, and it's really just begun."
According to the Chicago Tribune piece, Boeing predicts that the total number of airplanes used by the airlines around the world will more than double by 2025, to 35,970. To keep pace, Darby estimates that airlines will need to hire more than 210,000 pilots globally, more than double the number currently working.
The demand for air travel and, consequently, the need for pilots to fly the machines are also supported by the FAA's own forecasting which calls for more than a billion passengers flying annually in the coming decade.
The regional airlines have been hiring robustly even in the aftermath of September 11, and the plan is for more. But now, the very good jobs with six-figure salary potential at the legacy airlines are re-appearing.
Continental Airlines has been hiring for the past year and looks to add another 336 pilots in 2007. Delta plans to bring in 200 pilots this year. Even United has offered jobs to each of the 2,172 pilots it laid off, but only 1,000 have returned.
Of course, the cargo haulers like FedEx and UPS have held their own through the ups and downs.
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