American Airlines hopes to hire as many as 1,350 pilots by the end of 2022 as demand ramps up coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines told employees Wednesday that it hopes to bring on 350 more new pilots this year, adding 50 new employees to its plan to hire 300 by the end of 2021. And in 2022, the company plans to hire 1,000 aviators, increasing from its previous projection to add 600 pilots.
“Though we were limited in pilot growth this past year, we are now moving full speed ahead with plans to continue recruiting, hiring and training the best and most diverse pilots in the business,” American’s vice president of flight Chip Long said in an email to employees Wednesday.
As of 2019, the average American Airlines pilot made $238,000 in salary and benefits, according to the MIT Airline Data Project.
American will report a projected $1.1 billion second-quarter loss on Thursday and has spent more than a year making constant adjustments to its schedules, network and workforce as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape the airline industry.
More than 16 months after COVID-19 was declared a worldwide health emergency, demand is now nearly back to pre-pandemic levels and airports and planes are nearly full, even though airlines are still flying fewer flights than they did in 2019. Airlines hope to change that through the end of 2021 and into next year.
“As an airline, our revenue and expense performance for the quarter came in better than expected,” Long said in the email. “As an industry, travel demand is returning.”
Airlines across the country are now scrambling to find pilots after major cutbacks since the beginning of 2021. American Airlines lost about 1,000 pilots to early retirements through various buyout packages over the last year and a half. Those buyouts were aimed at reducing payroll costs while airlines hemorrhaged cash. But now that demand is recovering, airlines need pilots to ferry a growing number of passengers.
“Though the numbers aren’t at 2019 levels and the demand itself looks different right now, it’s the path to recovery we’ve all be focused on,” Long said.
American Airlines also has about 1,000 pilots out on leave who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic and are being trained to get back into the air.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has told employees that it plans to hire 120 new pilots in 2021. Southwest posted those jobs last week and plans to leave the jobs open until Aug. 1.
“Southwest does expect to hire pilots in 2022; however, we don’t have any numbers to confirm today,” said Southwest Airlines spokesman Brian Parrish in an email.