From today’s New York Times:
Staffing shortages, bad weather, high fuel prices and runaway inflation — airlines face plenty of challenges as they seek to benefit from a strong travel rebound. But there’s at least one other complication in the mix: negotiating new pilot contracts.
Each of the nation’s largest carriers is in the process of trying to strike a deal with pilots. In some cases, airlines appear ready to pay substantially higher wages, with two major airlines recently offering to raise pay more than 14 percent in the next year and a half.
But money alone may not be enough. Pilot unions are also demanding changes that they say would improve operations and their members’ quality of life, particularly as flight disruptions throughout the recovery have left pilots feeling frustrated and overworked.
They may be well positioned to get what they want, industry analysts say. A brewing pilot shortage was worsened during the pandemic when airlines encouraged thousands of pilots and other workers to accept buyouts and early-retirement offers. Now, with the industry hiring pilots at record numbers but struggling to attract, train and retain them, their unions are pushing hard for broader changes.
“You absolutely cannot address quality of life with money,” said Casey Murray, a pilot and the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. “You’re never going to pay someone enough for a lost piano recital with their daughter or a lost baseball game.”
Airlines in the United States have already hired more than 5,500 pilots this year, more than in any full year since at least 1990, according to Future & Active Pilot Advisors, a career consulting firm for pilots. The four largest carriers — American, Delta, Southwest and United — accounted for most of that hiring and collectively employ about 50,000 pilots. Those airlines say they have had little trouble finding qualified candidates, though the smaller, regional airlines from which they hire are struggling.
Read the complete story here.