- American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said on Friday that the carrier is grounding about 100 regional jets.
- However, he believes the problem “can be remedied” with the right compensation and incentives.
- United Airlines grounded 100 regional planes in December amid the pilot shortage.
The pilot shortage is continuing to take a toll on US airlines, forcing some to park planes because there aren’t enough pilots to fly them.
American Airlines CEO Robert Isom told participants at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference on Friday that the carrier is grounding about 100 regional jets due to the pilot shortage. The news was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.
“There is a supply and demand imbalance right now, and it really is within the regional carrier ranks,” he said. “We have probably a hundred aircraft — almost a hundred aircraft that aren’t, aren’t productive right now, that aren’t flying.”
The parked planes are smaller 50 and 76-seater jets, he explained. However, Isom said American has made up for the lack of frequencies by flying larger regional aircraft, like the Embraer 175.
Despite the groundings, Isom says the company is currently hiring 2,000 pilots and believes if “there are the appropriate incentives and there’s the kind of compensation that attracts people to the industry, then this is something that can be remedied.”
Isom’s comments come as the airline industry grapples with the pilot shortage, especially with the busy summer travel season quickly approaching. Regional carriers have been particularly impacted as their pilots move to larger airlines.
Mesa Airlines CEO Jonathan Ornstein told CNBC in May that it takes about four months to replace a pilot who put in their two weeks’ notice to fly for a larger carrier, and that Mesa needs “about 200 pilots.”
While some airlines are reducing their fleet and laser-focused on hiring, one carrier is trying to change training requirements to get more pilots flying sooner.
In April, regional carrier Republic Airways, which flies on behalf of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American, asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to hire pilots from its training academy, LIFT. Currently, most pilots need 1,500 hours to be hired by an airline, but Republic wants to slash that in half to 750 hours.
“Republic is not proposing overturning the 1500-hour rule or weakening safety; to the contrary, we are proposing a more intensive, mission-specific training pathway similar to what is permitted for military pilots under current law,” Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said in a statement sent to Insider.
He emphasized the importance of safety, and that the proposal is a data-supported “pathway” that will “produce higher performing pilots while reducing significant economic barriers to enable more diversity in our cockpits.”
There are already some exemptions in place that allow pilots to be hired with less training time. Specifically, those with two or four-year college degrees can be hired with 1,250 and 1,000 hours, respectively.
American is not the only airline grounding aircraft. In December, United Airlines announced it would park 100 regional jets amid the pilot shortage.
“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a quarterly earnings call in April, CNBC reported.
The shortage was exacerbated during the pandemic when the industry lost thousands of pilots due to early retirement, and carriers expect the low supply to continue as more hit the mandatory retirement age of 65, per The Dallas Morning News.
To keep more pilots flying longer, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) may propose a bill that would increase the retirement age to 67, according to Aviation Weekly.
“Optically, cutting the number of required flying hours may look like a riskier approach than allowing a healthy pilot to continue flying a few more years,” Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, previously told Insider.