Release #: 14.19
February 27, 2014

ALPA: Pilot Shortage is All About the Money

Washington - The Air Line Pilots Association Int’l (ALPA) today said that a pilot shortage will only exist if U.S. airlines fail to provide qualified pilots with career potential, adequate livable wages, and benefits. Although some within the airline industry blame the new pilot qualifications and training rules instituted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a pilot shortage, the airline industry actually helped craft those rules and supported their passage.

“There is a shortage of pay and benefits for pilots in the regional airline industry, not a shortage of pilots who are capable and certified to fly the airlines’ equipment,” said Capt. Lee Moak, president of ALPA. “Congress, labor and the industry need to work together to create an airline industry that can offer jobs that are attractive to those who are interested in a career as an airline pilot.”

According to ALPA’s pay rate data, the average starting salary for new first officers in the regional airline industry is only $22,400, which compares very poorly with the starting salaries of other fields for which university aviation graduates are qualified to enter. These include: test engineer ($52,500); operations manager ($55,000); and, second lieutenant in the Air Force ($53,616 in salary and allowances).

ALPA will also ask Congress to review the federal government’s relationship with regional airlines that accept millions of dollars in government subsidies for providing Essential Air Service (EAS). These same airlines offer some of the worst wages and benefits in the industry and as a result, cannot fill their pilot seats. Great Lakes Airlines, which publicly complained recently about the “pilot shortage,” accepted tens of millions of dollars in EAS subsidies last year while paying its new-hire first officers $16,500 per year. Another carrier, Silver Airways, also accepted tens of millions of dollars in EAS funds while only paying its first-year pilots $20,770.

“Thousands of young adults learn to fly each year with the hopes of becoming airline pilots investing $150,000 or more for their college aviation education and flight training,” said Moak. “These future aviators need to see evidence that their investment will be rewarded otherwise, over the long-term, we will see a shortage of qualified workers in our aviation industry.”