Airlines counter ongoing pilot shortage by replacing planes with buses

The industry must hire on an average 14,500 new pilots for 8 consecutive years until 2030 to address surging travel demand

U.S. airlines are experiencing a persistent shortage in pilots, hampering the industry’s efforts to scale up flights. The shortage has compelled airlines to boost training programs and even replace planes with buses and recruit foreign pilots.

According to the U.S. federal labor statistics, one way the airline industry can combat the challenges of pilot shortage is by recruiting an average of 14,500 new pilots a year consistently until 2030.

However, carriers indicate long lag times required for credentialing to make it impossible for airlines to bring that many new pilots on board, that too each year, and what’s worse is that experts see no end to the staffing bottleneck.

Speaking on the current pilot shortage, Scott Kirby, Chief Executive Officer of United Airlines Holdings Inc, stressed upon severity of the situation and the potential failure of majority of airlines in realising their capacity plans amidst lack of pilots - likely to persist over next coming 5+ years.

According to Kirby, the current challenge will force the airline to keep 150 regional planes parked even though domestic travel is bouncing back at a sustainable rate.

While pilot retention is not a fresh challenge, the pandemic certainly sped up the purging of employees. Thousands of pilots took an early retirement or buyouts after the federal support meant to dodge furloughs failed to cater with the airline’s labor costs. 

Labor costs within airline industry are among the extravagant expenditures, with most veteran pilots taking a six-figure salary. Even after 2 years into the pandemic, airlines haven’t been able to assemble a qualified crew equipped to fully reinstate route maps.

Meanwhile, various airlines like the United and American are teaming up with charter bus services such as Colorado-based startup Landline Co., to shuttle passengers and their luggage via motorcoach on shorter routes, extending reach to destinations where they don’t fly.

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By Shreya Bhute

With corporate exposure in software and marketing, Shreya was always intrigued by content development. Having pursued her graduation in I.T. engineering, she works as a content writer for and jots down news articles across distinct domains including technology, business and healthcare.