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Airlines ramp up hiring

Both firms recently returned to in-person career fairs, seminars, and workshops to meet the needs of aviation job seekers, and curiosity was especially high at EAA AirVenture.

“This year’s EAA weeklong career fair was exhilarating, and a much-needed breath of fresh air after the past year,” said Executive Director Abbey Hutter, whose company focuses on a variety of aviation jobs. One pilot recruiter estimated an increase of about 50 percent over 2019 interest among young pilots asking about aviation careers during the event.

“Little by little, things are moving in the direction of recovery,” said Future and Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA) President Louis Smith, whose company specializes in airline pilot positions. “So far, 2021 has seen many pilots with contingent job offers in-hand being recalled by their would-be employer and placed back into classes to finish what they were not able to start” in 2020.

AOPA asked Hutter and Smith to share their latest perspectives on aviation career hiring.

What is the overall aviation jobs outlook during the third quarter?

Hutter: We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of open jobs being advertised by hiring aviation companies from quarter one to quarter two. We are expecting that trend to hold and continue to rise in the third quarter.

Smith: More and more aviation companies are bolstering their efforts when it comes to pilot hiring. Atlas, FedEx, Spirit, and UPS blazed the recruiting trails in the Spring, and more airlines have indicated they are joining the fray.

What job application trends or hiring trends have you identified lately?

Hutter: As more companies continue to resume normal operations, and more job seekers continue to enter back into the workforce, overall hiring and job seeker applications continue to rise in all facets of the industry, particularly among pilots and mechanics.

Smith: Good things are on the horizon for those of us who call aviation our professional home. Delta [Air Lines] resumed pilot-hiring, and the company’s wholly owned Endeavor Airlines was expected to finalize an agreement flowing up to 20 pilots per month. They will be accepting students into their College Path program in the fall.

Southwest Airlines is planning on ramping up their ab initio Destination 225° as early as this fall and Allegiant plans on hiring 200 pilots this year.

Indianapolis-based LIFT Academy, Republic Airways’ wholly owned ab initio flight training school, continues to train pilots in all stages of their journeys and is excited to see their career pathway program to Republic Airways continuing to grow.

United announced a return to 80 percent of pre-pandemic flying capacity by this summer and unveiled an aggressive plan to hire 100 pilots or more for the remaining months of 2021 and beyond. In May, United initiated the airline’s first new hire class since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The other major airlines have projected their pilot hiring numbers for the rest of 2021, and including those who have already been hired, the numbers represent 78 percent of the volume of pilots hired by the majors in 2019. These are big numbers and exciting ones when we look in the rearview mirror at the last year.

Among the regionals, Air Wisconsin is actively hiring and looking to fill bi-monthly classes with 16 new candidates. CommutAir made plans to hire another 400 new first officers this year and is also hiring direct-entry captains, with new-hire classes every week in June and more classes throughout the year. Endeavor and PSA are recruiting pilots off the street; GoJet is still hiring new pilots as well as direct entry captains; Envoy started recalling pilots placed on leave last year; SkyWest is hiring first officers; Mesa is finishing training for pilots delayed last year and is adding new-pilot classes through December.

What are the biggest challenges facing us this quarter?

Hutter: The aviation industry is once again experiencing the same problem as before 2020: the need for qualified aviation professionals across all facets of the industry. Hiring in the third quarter will be very competitive—Boeing reports there will be a need for 763,000 pilots as well as 739,000 technicians and 903,000 cabin crew members from now until 2039. In commercial aviation alone, the industry is projected to need at least 2,086,000 new personnel in the coming years.

Smith: There are a few regional airlines that have yet to return to their previous pilot recruiting glory, although more continue to jump back into the game.

What are your experiences with the return to in-person learning opportunities and other events?

Hutter: You could feel the excitement of the aviation industry bouncing back just as strong as before! Forty companies participated in the seven-day Aviation Job Fair at EAA AirVenture, and job seeker attendance was stellar: [It] was common to walk into the Career and Education Center and find job seekers standing shoulder to shoulder to get an opportunity to discuss jobs with the hiring companies. We cannot wait to see what AirVenture 2022 brings!

Smith: With a unique 13 months behind us, FAPA is ecstatic to be returning to in-person events this summer. United Airlines representatives informed attendees about the Aviate pilot career development program during a July in-person Future Pilot Forum in Chicago.

Mesa Airlines, iAero Airways, and Wheels Up representatives will be at the FAPA in-person Pilot Jobs Fair and FAPA Future Pilot Forum in Houston, August 28.

Additional dates for FAPA in-person Pilot Jobs Fairs and FAPA Future Pilot Forums are September 25 in Dallas/Fort Worth; October 23 in San Diego; November 13 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and December 11 in Phoenix. Venue locations and registration links will be available soon.

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