Flight cancellations continue to be the order of the day. The reason is simple: there are no pilots

Over the last few years, the airline industry has chained more storms than a Boeing 747 dedicated to flying over stormy skies. Let’s see. COVID-19 squeezed demand during 2020 and much of 2021; later and with the pandemic already subsiding, he found a rise in costs that has led to the cancellation of flights and review rates and, to top it off, in recent months it has dealt with strikes and chaos that cloud what was promised as the summer of recovery.

They are not the only clouds with which the collective has had to deal. There is another one, as important as the debate about its environmental footprint: the shortage of pilots.

Drivers missing? Yes. And the sector openly recognizes it, without hesitation. the consultant Olive Wyman calcula that demand will exceed supply in most regions of the planet between 2022 and 2024, and warns: “it will continue to worsen over the next decade”. A year ago I already pointed out that in 2025 the sector would face a global deficit of between 34,000 and 50,000 commercial pilots, which already led 83% of regional airlines to recognize difficulties in recruiting them. Recently extended his calculations until 2032 and the scenario is not much better: it continues to identify scarcity.

The problem was exposed not long ago clearly —and above all emphatically— by the executive director of Mesa Air Group, Jonathan Ornstein, before the United States Congress: “The shortage of pilots is the greatest threat to the industry that I have witnessed since September 11″.

And where are they missing? Olive Wyman detects “a serious shortage” in North America that figures in 8,000 pilots. Her projection for the future is not too rosy: retirements, fewer professionals coming from the armed forces, “a bottleneck in training”… “The supply of new commercial pilots is expected to increase in the coming years; but in the current conditions it does not seem that this is sufficient”. By 2032, she estimates that North America will be short of 30,000 pilots.

your analysis also points to the Middle East and leaves a warning for sailors in the old continent and Asia: “Europe has a surplus and we expect it to continue until the middle of the decade, but then we forecast a shortage of 19,000 pilots by 2032, driven by higher demand ”.

A problem with consequences. The expectations for the next five years may not be good, but the scarcity would be leaving consequences now. In June CBS reported that airlines were canceling “hundreds of flights” ahead of the summer season due to pilot shortages. More or less around the same dates American Airlines planned cancel the service to four US cities in September due, precisely, to the shortage of professionals. The shortage of qualified personnel would have affected even the low cost giant, Ryanair.

A problem that comes from behind… That’s how it is. If we continue with the metaphor of the storm, this, of course, could already be seen coming in the distance. “In the long term, a pilot deficit has always been predicted, given that there will be increased passenger demand that will require more pilots and there is also likely to be an increase in the retirement age of pilots in the future,” sign Stuart Fox, from IATA, to the BBC. Years ago, Boeing or Airbus themselves pointed out that during the next two decades a considerable number of professionals capable of controlling aircraft would be needed.

Retirements are not the only factor. Oliver Wyman also points out how, at least in the case of North America, there is a perceived decrease in the number of candidates who arrive at the airlines after having passed through the armed forces. The increasing use of drones has simply led to the fact that the number of soldiers trained to fly has decreased.

… But it has aggravated the pandemic. That the shortage comes from afar and could be counted on for a long time does not mean, however, that the effect of COVID-19 has been innocuous. On the contrary. “Certainly, the cause of the current crisis is the pandemic,” Fox acknowledges. Seeing how demand and traffic plummeted to historic levels, leaving entire airports at minimum levels, airlines chose to seek solutions to adjust their expenses. One of them was to implement programs that promoted early retirement or, directly, apply personnel cuts. In august 2020 the airlines were the ones that led the data of personnel cuts in the USA.

“That caused the short-term demand that we see at the moment, which has been basically caused by the COVID crisis,” says the IATA manager. The Australian Federation of Air Pilots, for example, estimates that around 23% of its members ended up being laid off during the health crisis. The staff also demands better conditions. Earlier this month a strike summoned by Lufthansa pilots forced the cancellation of flights. In July they had already launched a similar call cabin crew and pilots of Brussels Airlines.

Wenhao Ryan Du0bxdwojq4 Unsplash

to hire it has been said. Everything indicates that the solution lies in hiring. In the US, airlines have already announced plans to hire thousands of professionals and have begun looking for candidates in other countries. In May there was even talk of bonuses to take care of the template. But the key is… Is it that easy to sign new riders? Obtaining a degree is not easy or cheap.

At least in 2018 it was noted that in Spain the average price of the two-year course to obtain an ATPL license it was around 70,000 euros. The amount was considerably higher (180.000) if they opted for the cycle with a university rank. In order to obtain the degree, it is also required to pass a medical examination, a good knowledge of English and to have passed flight and simulator hours. In other words: no, it is neither easy nor is it within the reach of all pockets.

To overcome this hurdle, there are airlines that have created pilot training programs and are redoubling their recruitment efforts. The risk, as he points out to the BBC Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, is that pilots who are already in service end up overloaded, taking on more stress and overtime. “It is a struggle every day. Our fatigue rates reflect that,” he notes.

Images | Nicholas Jeffries (Unsplash) y Wenhao Ryan (Unsplash)


Source: Xataka by www.xataka.com.

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