Release #: 22.18
June 23, 2022

ALPA Calls on U.S. Government to Help Protect Airline Pilot Jobs

McLean, Va.—In a letter today to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), and Capt. Ryan Muller, chair of ALPA’s Spirit Airlines pilot group, ALPA called on DHS to help prevent U.S. airlines from misusing the “specialty occupation” visa designation that undercuts airline pilot jobs.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some U.S. airlines had begun to misuse U.S. visa programs—particularly E-3 and H-1B ‘specialty occupation’ visas—to avoid market pressures and artificially maintain pilot pay rates and work rules insufficient to attract qualified U.S. pilots. Though this activity slowed during the first part of the pandemic, we now have evidence of Spirit Airlines management scheduling recruiting sessions in cities in Australia in July,” wrote Capts. DePete and Muller.

Over the past several years, some U.S. airlines have attempted to use this troublesome scheme to exploit labor standards and usurp collectively bargained industry standards. Despite a verifiable excess of available, qualified pilots in the United States, Spirit Airlines is actively seeking to recruit pilots from Australia using the E-3 visa program. ALPA is calling on DHS to help set precedent that airline pilot positions are not classified as a “specialty occupation” and coordinate closely with the Department of State to ensure that E-3 reviewers are aware of such precedent.

“There is a growing trend of scapegoating pilots for an airline’s inability to attract and retain staff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Aviation Administration, there are 1.5 pilots available for every airline pilot job, yet every day we see airlines pointing to a fictional pilot shortage to justify increasing the labor pool, weakening safety regulations, and reducing costs. We are committed to partnering with you to stop this race to the bottom globally,” added DePete and Muller.


Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 65,000 pilots at 40 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or