Is there really a pilot shortage pervading the airline industry?
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby thinks so, saying last month “there are simply not enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years.”
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian thinks so, saying in October of 2021 that it might not have been there at the time, “but it’s on its way.”
But Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie and two major pilots’ unions don’t think so.
Christie agreed with the Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association unions, saying long-term projections show there should be enough pilots in the future and not the shortage that many are predicting.
In a Spirt Airlines first-quarter earnings call last week, Christie said that aside from the dip from COVID, “the lines were all trending up. More people were applying to get pilot licenses, ATP licenses and instructor licenses. The COVID pandemic impacted that, mostly because none of us were hiring pilots in 2020. We anticipate you could interpret that data to suggest it will probably be closer to what you’ve experienced in the past, Supply and demand will work itself out over that period of time.”
Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Dennis Tajer told Forbes that the union does not believe there is a shortage.
“We don’t think there are not enough pilots,” Tajer said. “The crisis we see today is because demand is coming in so quickly and management didn’t plan for it. Management is failing to connect the pilots to the airlines.”
Forbes also noted that the Air Line Pilots Association last month put out a white paper entitled, “More Than Enough Pilots to Meet U.S. Airline Demand: Debunking the Pilot Shortage Myth.”
Christie said he could only speak for his airline, but the shortage is not affecting Spirit.
“We are more efficient than they are at the majors because we push more units [with] more seats per aircraft,” he said. “We still maintain a unit cost advantage no matter what.”