Travel woes due to pilot shortages have some proposing higher retirement ages, eased certification requirements
The summer of numerous delayed and cancelled flights, and the decision by many airlines to cancel routes or not reinstate them after the pandemic, has been primarily blamed on continuing staff shortages, especially pilots. Whether it's mainline carriers like Delta, United and American, or the regional airlines who support mainline carriers connecting to smaller cities and rural areas, the airline industry continues to struggle to meet the needs of pent up travel demand. Instead, many of the major carriers have dropped routes to many smaller cities; Chicago O'Hare, for example, has 25% fewer departures than it did in 2019, due to the loss of service to smaller airports. It's estimated that there are 500 fewer regional airplanes in the air, due to the shortage of approximately 5000 pilots. Some in the industry, with support from congressional members, are proposing to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, as well as decreasing the number of flight hours required before a pilot can be certified. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that U.S. airlines will need to hire about 14,500 pilots each year over the next 10 years. Further, 5,000 pilots will be forced to retire over the next two years due to the mandatory retirement age, leading to the retirement of 14,000 pilots by 2026.