Post-Pandemic : United States (US) likely to face shortage of 12,000 pilots by 2023 – Study
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in United States has caused the demand for pilots to make a 180 degrees turn. The aviation industry went from suffering from pilot shortage to dealing with pilot surplus almost overnight.
Now, accelerating vaccination rates and airlines ramping up their summer schedules says that US-based air carriers could soon be facing a post-pandemic pilot shortage.
Post-pandemic pilot shortage: why and when?
There are a couple of questions the ailing airline industry is trying to answer at the moment. One major question is when will the air travel demand return? The other critical question coming hand in hand is whether the airline sector will face the pilot shortage after the passenger traffic recovers.
According to a recent study conducted by the American consulting firm Oliver Wyman, the pilot shortage, temporarily paused by the pandemic, will be felt once again between 2023 and 2025 when the industry fully recovers. The report suggests that by the middle of a decade there could be a lack of 50,000 pilots worldwide.
Air carriers in North America and Asia-Pacific, including China, will see the pilot shortage first and feel it the hardest.
“In North America, with an aging pilot population and heavy use of early retirements, the shortage reemerges quickly and is projected to reach over 12,000 pilots by 2023—13 percent of total demand,” the study indicates.
In the United States, air carriers were facing a shortage prior to pandemic. The lack of pilot supply was caused by an ageing workforce facing mandatory retirement plus fewer pilots leaving the military, compounded by the high cost of training.
Meanwhile, noticing the air travel demand recovery, the airline industry might face the lack of pilot supply once again not only because of ageing pilot population but also due to the COVID-19 pandemic related retirements, furloughs, and curtailed cadet programs.
“Pilot candidates will think twice about entering such a cyclical industry. Many furloughed pilots will return, but some may pursue other opportunities,” read the Oliver Wyman report.
Currently, with the COVID-19 crisis being resolved, passenger traffic recovery estimates range from early 2022 to 2025 and beyond. According to the Oliver Wyman report on pilot supply, the rapid recovery from COVID-19 might create a pilot “supply shock” that can be seen even in 2021.
“With a more rapid recovery and greater supply shocks, [pilot shortage – ed. note] could be felt as early as late this year,” the study indicates, adding that COVID-19 related furloughs, retirements might create real challenges even for the biggest air carriers.
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