TAMPA, Fla. - Over the past few months, airlines have seen a significant amount of delays and cancellations affecting their passengers. As summer travel kicks into full gear, airlines are being forced to cancel thousands of flights as they just don’t have enough pilots to put their planes in the air.
It’s gotten so bad that experts estimate by next year the airline industry will be short about 12,000 pilots. However, the effects are already being felt by airlines and passengers as thousands of flights are being canceled, leaving fewer options and driving up ticket prices.
United Airlines has reported that they’ve grounded at least 150 of their regional jets, and Southwest Airlines has cut more than 20,000 of their flights.
Experts say the shortage has a lot to do with the pandemic as early on, airlines were handing out early retirement packages to thousands of pilots with the hopes of saving money while travel demand was low. But now that travel is back to normal, they need those positions filled once again.
Airports themselves are feeling the effects more than 300 are now offering fewer flights, and nine airports in the U.S. now offering no flights at all.
"We have no commercial service at all in Williamsport. We lost our service in September. The nearest airport is about an hour and 10 minutes away, but they've been impacted also by activity," said Richard Howell with Williamsport Regional Airport.
Because airlines need to get flights back on schedule, they are desperate for solutions. Republic Airways which flies for American, Delta, and United has petitioned for the government to cut back flight training hours from 1,500 to just 750 as a part of their new pilot training program with the hopes to incentivize pilots to come on board.
It not only takes a long time to become a pilot, but it’s also expensive. For someone who has no experience, it costs about $100,000 to be trained. The program still needs approval by the FAA, but at this rate, experts say it could be several years before things get back on track.