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COVID-19 and the Airline Industry Effects on Pilot Hiring, Retirements, and Flight Training

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Not unlike other historical events, the COVID‑19 pandemic has impacted demand for air travel, and the airline industry is responding to the national emergency by decreasing flight and hiring activity. When airline hiring returns to normal, recruiters will be looking for the most qualified candidates. Pilots who start training now, and have a jump start on building their hours, will be considered first as flight time is almost always king.

Major and legacy airlines have sharply reduced flights in response to less demand. Some regional airlines are still actively hiring, while others have just delayed the start of new-hire classes by 30 days. Both of these actions taken by the airlines are short term and designed to be quickly reversible.

It is crucial to keep in mind that the sudden instability in the industry is temporary and aspiring airline pilots should keep a long-term focus on their career. Demand for airline travel will return. There is pent up demand for air travel, and after containment of the virus, passengers will be eager to travel for business and leisure.

Long-Term Outlook

It takes two years to become a qualified airline pilot, making it essential to consider the long-term career outlook. The factors that caused the pilot shortage are still in effect. Thousands of pilots will be retiring when they turn 65 years old while the airline industry is forecast to keep growing to meet demand for air travel and freight.

Yearly Retirements at Major Airlines
Yearly Retirements at Major Airlines

United Airlines estimates half of the airline's 12,500 pilots will retire over the next ten years, and they will need to hire 10,000 pilots over that period to keep pace with growth. Boeing has estimates that airlines will need 645,000 pilots from 2019 through 2038, with 212,000 in North America alone.

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Should I Postpone My Airline Career?

No. It takes two years to become a qualified airline pilot, and postponing your airline career over a short-term, temporary upset in the industry will affect your seniority and long-term career prospects. Delaying your entry into the profession while other pilots continue to fly, means they will be ahead of you in seniority by the time you reach the airlines. Pilots at your airline will choose the aircraft that they operate, their monthly schedules, their vacation schedules, and how much they are paid based on their seniority. Your spot on the seniority list will affect you for the rest of your career.

What Has Changed

  • Airlines have temporarily paused hiring due to COVID‑19
  • ATP has implemented measures to maintain a safe and healthy training environment
  • ATP allows for a one-time class date change, at your discretion, without a penalty. If your class date is delayed for reasons related to COVID‑19, our Training Support team will work with you to reschedule a date and no additional deposit will be required.

What Hasn't Changed

  • Long-term demand for airline pilots remains at unprecedented levels
  • Mandatory retirements at airlines will continue with over 3,000 pilots needed per year to replace them
  • Interest rates for financing flight training are at historic lows
  • Flight training continues at ATP, with fast track training and unparalleled resources
  • If starting training today, the timeframe it will take for you to become an airline pilot has remained unchanged
Airlines will resume hiring soon and the opportunity to have a lucrative career flying for the airlines will remain for pilots who begin training now to take advantage of that opportunity.

From a Pilot's PerspectiveThoughts about COVID‑19, the Airline Industry and New Pilot Training

Chris - AirlinePilot.life Mentor

“ …be the first to be able to take advantage of the hiring wave. Do not base your career, a lifetime decision, off of very short term events. All industries have ups and downs, but over a career it levels off and those pilots that position themselves well will benefit greatly when all of this short-term craziness settles down.”

Chris

AirlinePilot.life Pilot Mentor

Join the conversation at AirlinePilot.life and read more about what Chris, other airline pilots and flight training students are discussing.

A pilot's perspective on COVID‑19, the airline industry and new pilot training »

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