Release #: 22.13
May 06, 2022

ALPA Assails Airlines Mismanaging Taxpayer Bailout Funds

Incompetence Root Cause of Aviation Operational Meltdowns Leaving Thousands Stranded

MCLEAN, Va.—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) today slammed U.S. airlines for failing to deliver on a key goal of the multibillion-dollar bailout American taxpayers provided them during the pandemic: effectively manage air-service operations as travel resumes. In a letter to the leaders of Airlines for America, the National Air Carrier Association, and the Regional Airline Association, the lobbying organizations for most U.S airlines, ALPA highlighted the significant rise in flight delays and cancelations plaguing U.S. carriers, which according to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) February 2022 Air Travel Consumer report, increased nearly 65 percent compared to the same period in February 2020.

“As evidenced by the recent 65 percent spike in flight delays and cancellations, it is clear to all that the airlines have mismanaged this critical relief package, which was specifically designed to make certain that airlines were prepared to meet the increase in travel demand we are experiencing today,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president.

Despite receiving $63 billion in taxpayer subsidies to help prevent the industry from buckling under the weight of a drastic and sustained reduction in air travel unlike anything ever seen before, airline executives are now attempting to distract the flying public by blaming their failures on others. ALPA asserts they have no one to blame but themselves. While a few airlines have rightly admitted that their failure to plan has resulted in pilot training backlogs and operational meltdowns, others are trying to use this crisis of their own making to weaken safety regulations that make certain pilots are properly qualified and trained.

“ALPA is prepared to collaborate with anyone who comes to the table, in good faith, and work together to help our industry navigate this challenging period. However, we will not allow airline CEOs who seek to exploit this current moment to divert attention away from their mismanagement of the pandemic relief, while lobbying to weaken critical lifesaving pilot qualification and training requirements,” added DePete.

Currently, many U.S. airlines are claiming they cannot hire pilots fast enough as the aviation industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and air travel demand rebounds. Ironically, the taxpayer money taken by airlines was expressly intended to keep workers on the payroll so that the companies could meet the increased travel demand the industry is experiencing today. Contrary to what airlines try to portray, five of the seven largest passenger air carriers currently have more pilots now than they did in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

“Right now, many airlines have more pilots, carry less net debt, and operate at greater domestic capacity levels than in 2019. Yet, airline representatives continue to attempt to hawk mistruths about pilot supply and advocate for regulation rollbacks that would compromise the safety of the flying public—the same taxpayers who gave the companies billions to weather the pandemic and emerge on the strong financial footing they enjoy today. The attempt to divert the country’s attention away from their profit-based business decisions to cancel flights and cut air service to rural and smaller communities is bad enough, but even worse, airline representatives are pushing to weaken requirements that ensure pilots are qualified and trained to keep passengers safe,” said DePete.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), over the last eight and a half years since the First Officer Qualification Final Rule was implemented, 54,533 pilots received their certificates from the FAA while during the same time, the largest mainline and cargo carriers hired 36,951 pilots to cover expansion, pilot attrition, and to replace the 15,000 pilots who have retired since 2013. In addition to this pilot surplus, federal government data shows since that Congress enacted these strengthened first officer qualification rules, there has been a 99.8 percent reduction in airline fatalities.

ALPA remains fully committed to ensuring that the United States maintains its strong pipeline of highly trained pilots and creates a more diverse and inclusive air transportation workforce. ALPA believes that action is needed in several critical areas to break down barriers and open up opportunities to foster a more diverse and inclusive aviation workforce that reflects the communities and customers our industry serves, while maintaining the highest safety standards in the world.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 62,000 pilots at 38 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or