Airlines after Covid

There had been many regional airlines that have ceased operations recently. I know TSA and Compass ceased operations for other reasons that have nothing to do with Covid, except airlines like Expressjet surely did. No one knows the future of course, but currently many airlines, primarily the regionals, are at potential risk of losing contracts with the major carriers or potentially furloughing thousands of employees. Do these potential risks within the industry mean that the pilot shortage may become smaller? However, I’ve heard two different stories. Some say that many pilots may never return due to early retirement or because of furloughs. As a result the pilot deficit will potentially become larger. Any thoughts ?

Alex,

There are multiple threads on this subject and the question comes up daily. Obviously right now with thousands of pilots being furloughed and airlines closing their doors there is no shortage. But that’s right now. Will the airlines recover? Of course they will and yes many pilots not only will continue to retire but are doing so sooner due to early outs. That’s reason while the airlines while furloughing are actuality offering more extended leaves. They know the shortage will return and don’t want to be caught short when it does.

Adam

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I wonder how this will affect the number of furloughs. United recently upped their estimates to 3900, but I saw a post stating that it would take somewhere north of 4 years to retrain all the furloughed pilots upon recall. Now it might not necessarily take a full 4 years, but it almost certainly would take an astronomical amount of time to retrain 30% of their pre-COVID pilot group. This would leave them incredibly vulnerable, especially if Delta and American don’t furlough that many.

Dan,

These are questions that every airline (and many other industries) are all pondering and NO ONE knows for certain with no definitive end in sight. While you’re correct it would take considerable time to train a large number of pilots, this is not a light switch that will just be turned back on. It’s more of a faucet that will be opened gradually as the demand returns. So they have more time than you might think. In fact a some of the airlines are also offering “enhanced” furloughs that will grant the pilots some benefits in exchange for the pilots maintaining currency. Trust me are alot of really smart people weighing every possible option.

There’s also another aspect to this whole equation. Not sure who said it (think it was Churchill?) but there’s a famous quote that says “never waste a good crisis”. We all did very well the last decade or so, mass hiring, salary and contract gains, all good things. While the airlines are in survival mode right now if you don’t think there are mgmt folks saying “hey now might be the time to make some grabs back” you don’t understand business or negotiations.

Before CV-19 if the airlines hinted at concessions they would’ve been laughed out of the room. We had the upper hand. BUT, start throwing around #s like 3900 UA pilots, 2500 Delta pilots, and you can very easily get pilots to blink. Mind you not a single pilot has been furloughed AND the government has been paying everyone’s salary all summer. Now I’m not saying there aren’t some really concerns but this is really Negotiating 101 and as a union Rep I’m already hearing maybe we should… from some.

Again no one knows for certain but also know not everyone has the same goal in this situation.

Adam

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Alex,

There is so much up in the air right now that nobody really knows the answers to your questions. What I can tell you is that we are a people that travel, we have since the dawn of time. I am in an airport right now and it is very evident that the passengers are returning. The numbers will come back, the airlines will hire again and those who train now and are most qualified will be the ones to be hired when the airlines start hiring again.

Chris

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If this isn’t the truth for me on the 135 side of things as well. The company knows the power has shifted to them and we as a pilot group have little to no other option other than to take the payouts, work a 7 on 3 off schedule, and suck it up. They’ve even told us to our face “soon there will be tons of pilots looking for work” like they’re confident they can replace us easily if we quit.

Arthur,

It is times like this that will show who the good companies are to work for. Some companies will act this way, the good ones will not.

Chris

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I agree with you 100%