Pilot Shortage Leads to Diminished Air Service at 76% of US Airports
The Regional Airline Association (RAA), which represents airlines that provide 43% of scheduled passenger flights in the U.S., has announced that the ongoing pilot shortage is causing diminished or lost air service at 76% of U.S. airports.
According to schedule data from October 2022 compared to the same period in 2019, there are now more than 500 regional aircraft parked without pilots to fly them, resulting in an air service retraction at 324 communities. 14 airports have lost all scheduled commercial air service, and this number is still rising. This pilot shortage has led to a contraction of the regional airline industry over the past decade, resulting in a reduction of air service to small and medium–sized communities.
The total number of airports with service has declined by 5% between 2009 and today, with those remaining seeing a reduction in frequency and fewer destinations. These trends are only accelerating, with 161 U.S. airports losing more than one in four of their commercial flights between 2019 and 2022. The FAA has certified an average of 6,335 airline–qualified pilots each year since 2013, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts 18,100 yearly commercial airline pilot openings over the next decade.
Despite the higher–than–usual number of pilots qualified in 2022 due to the resumption of covid–disrupted qualifications, the industry is still short more than 8,000 pilots. This shortage will result in hundreds more aircraft being parked without resolution, leading to another wave of devastating air service loss. RAA offers several solutions to make pilot careers more equitable, such as improved student loans for flight education and urges the FAA to make data–driven decisions on additional, advanced training pathways allowed under current law.
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