Release #: 14.10
February 04, 2014

ALPA Refutes Myth of U.S. Pilot Shortage

WASHINGTON – The thousands of airline pilots who are furloughed or working overseas when they would prefer to fly for a U.S. airline and live in this country makes it clear that no shortage of trained and qualified airline pilots currently exists in the United States, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA).

“There may be a shortage of qualified pilots who are willing to fly for U.S. airlines because of the industry’s recent history of instability, poor pay, and benefits,” said Capt. Lee Moak, president of ALPA, “But thousands of highly qualified and experienced U.S. airline pilots are either furloughed or working overseas and eager to return to U.S airline cockpits—under the right conditions.”

Furlough numbers show no shortage of pilots who are fully qualified to serve as flight crew members on U.S. airliners exists, ALPA pointed out:

  • Some 1,154 ALPA members currently are furloughed from their airlines.
  • Comair Airlines closed in 2012, furloughing more than 850 highly trained and experienced pilots, nearly all of whom are looking for jobs.
  • ASTAR, Evergreen, and Ryan have shuttered their operations recently, putting approximately 800 pilots on the street.

In addition, thousands of U.S. pilots now fly for foreign airlines because those airlines’ stability, pay, and benefits are much greater than those offered by U.S airlines. For example,

  • The average first officer (copilot) starting salary at 14 U.S. regional airlines is $21,285/year plus benefits; Delta and United start copilots at $61,000/year plus benefits.
  • At Emirates Airlines, new-hire copilots receive $82,000/year plus a housing allowance and other extraordinary benefits. Similarly, Cathay Pacific pays new copilots $72,000/year plus a housing allowance and other extraordinary benefits.

Many expatriate U.S. pilots say they would return to the United States if airline industry conditions improve here.

Moreover, recent safety enhancements implemented in the United States—higher minimum qualifications for airline first officers (copilots) and science-driven, consensus-based rules to ensure that flight crew members receive the rest they need to fly safely—and have had minimal effect on pilot staffing. U.S. airlines have been active participants with ALPA, the FAA, and other industry stakeholders in crafting these safety enhancements and preparing for their implementation, which were first announced more than two years ago.

Capt. Moak asserted, “The real solution to preventing any future pilot shortage is for airlines to produce consistently profitable results. Congress can support this goal by implementing pro-growth aviation policies that reduce the tax burden on airlines and give the industry an opportunity to compete and prevail in the international marketplace.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 50,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440 or