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Airlines Face 'Grim Reality' over Pilot Shortage

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

'Grim Reality' Airlines Are Facing over Pilot Shortage

The chairman of the board of Avia Solutions Group Gediminas Ziemelis has predicted a shortage of 300,000 pilots within a decade, which he describes as a “grim reality airlines are facing”.

Pilots work through a seniority-based system. This implies that these aviation professionals progress through ranks and open positions as they advance in their careers. For many airlines, the recruitment process requires qualified pilots to bid for open positions, after which they receive intensive training to match the skill requirements for a specific position, notes Ziemelis.

On the other hand, the retirement system may create a ripple effect, exposing airlines to unexpected crew shortages, mainly due to unmatched levels of newly hired and adequately trained pilots and those going into retirement. India has been facing similar issues.

According to industry sources, some airlines in India will require close to 7,000 pilots to operate around 500 aircraft, supplied in coming years. The current shortage resulted in instances where recent ultra-long flights had been delayed or even cancelled due to the persisting problem. Moreover, as airlines continue to report a recovery in air demand in 2023, the reality is that these carriers are set to experience a growth in pilot demand due to the above-mentioned issues. Therefore, airline management must explore ways to reduce this bottleneck, for example, by enrolling more students in their pilot training programmes to alleviate the problems created by early pilot retirements.

Global carriers face another problematic situation of a shrinking pool of trained pilots, making it challenging to recruit new airline crews. The current shifts in the market suggest that the growing pilot demand, amidst strenuous efforts by aviation industry players, will drive a pilot deficit of around 300,000 by the decade.

In Asia and Pacific alone, the anticipated pilot demand may drive a deficit of about 111,000. North America could experience a shortage of almost 78,000, with Europe close to 51,000, followed by the Middle East with nearly 30,000 in the same period. Even more critically, many regional airlines may report a skyrocketing demand, primarily due to the increasing number of pilots going into early retirement, concludes Ziemelis.

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