Hundreds of airline pilots are set to retire soon and new federal rules require existing pilots to get more rest between flights.
Does that signal a pilot shortage for the airline industry?
It depends on who you talk to.
The effect of a pilot shortage would hit travelers hard, as airlines would have to cancel flights and raise fares for those remaining flights that are fully staffed. Airline executives have recently blamed a pilot shortage for cuts to air service.
Bryan Bedford, chief executive of Republic Airways Holdings Inc., said last month that the regional carrier would be removing 27 of its 243 aircraft from service because of a lack of qualified pilots. United Airlines Chief Executive Jeff Smisek cited financial losses and a pilot shortage for United’s decision to close its Cleveland hub last month.
There are signs of a shortage.
For example, the number of pilots who are forced to retire in the U.S. jumped from 592 in 2013 to 1,367 last year. This is projected to rise to 1,519 this year, according to aviation consultant Kit Darby.
Airlines will need to spend the next decade hiring an average of 1,900 to 4,500 pilots a year to meet growing travel demand, according to federal estimates.