Podcast warns of financial risks to airlines from pilot shortage

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While headlines report pilot shortages are not critical and in the face of rising pilot pay, workforce experts raised further alarm over an increasingly tight labor market for pilots.

In a podcast reporting on the most recent pilot population study, Flightpath Economics said airlines face increasing financial risks from deteriorating pilot supply.

“The supply demand balance for qualified pilots continues to shift and is driving changes in labor costs and,” said Flightpath Economics in the podcast, which warned investors of the financial hit airlines may take if they can’t staff their airplanes. “Pilot scarcity is creating disruption across the US airline industry.”

Featuring a Wall Street analyst, manufacturers and a labor economist, the podcast, included Courtney Miller, director of sales for North America at Bombardier Aircraft saying, “There is a pie of available pilots. We’re not growing the pie and that’s the challenge.”

George Ferguson of Bloomberg Intelligence agreed: “At the end of the day, this pilot shortage is going to cost financial performance. It’s going to hurt profitability,” he said. “We’ve seen it pretty broadly distributed, meaning that everyone is paying more for pilots. If this keeps going, I would anticipate that the problem will become more complicated down at the ultra-low-cost level.”

“Since about 2013 or 2014, the market has shifted from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market,” said Dan Akins, a labour economist at Flightpath Economics. “Airline are either career-oriented airlines or stepping stones. The worst position to be in, from a management perspective, is to think that you’re a career airline when pilots look at you as a stepping stone.”