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How the pilot shortage is taking its toll on airlines and passengers

How the pilot shortage is taking its toll on airlines and passengers
[Photo: William Topa/Unsplash]

After a rough 2017, Emirates—the world’s largest long-haul airline—had hoped to make an earnings recovery this fiscal year, but it’s hit a stumbling block. It’s not a lack of passengers or too much competition from Etihad or FlyDubai. The airline just can’t find enough pilots to fly planes.

As Bloomberg first reported, the airline is desperately seeking around 150 more pilots to fly routes from its base in Dubai and the Gulf States to destinations around the globe. Since it has been unable to get qualified candidates into the pilot seats, it now reportedly has to cut flights on the oh-so-desirable Fort Lauderdale-to-Dubai route, as well as on several European and Asian routes. Those cut flights mean a longer road to profit recovery.

While the big guys are feeling a pinch, smaller airlines in the United States have also been crushed by the pilot shortage:

  • Great Lakes Air, a nearly 40-year-old company that at one point had 1,600 employees, stopped flying last month because it couldn’t hire enough pilots, Skift reported.
  • Republic Airlinesfiled for bankruptcy two years ago, even though it was profitable, in order to re-form as a smaller company more capable of attracting pilots.
  • Some airlines are selectively canceling flights due to the shortage, while others have resorted to selling off smaller planes, in order to shuttle more passengers on larger planes, using the same number of pilots.

In short: If you’re looking for a job with a lot of, um, upward mobility and opportunity, consider becoming a pilot.