Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry has nearly fully recovered.
From the return of aircraft types thought to be extinct, to the resumption and expansion of international routes, to the removal of mask-mandates onboard aircraft, the aviation industry is undeniably returning to normalcy.
Except for one major stumbling block: staffing issues.
The airline industry is still taking a long time to replace jobs lost during the pandemic’s onset.
Fears of contracting the virus, combined with stay-at-home orders, resulted in a dramatic drop in passenger demand.
Flights were empty, and the airline industry was forced to cut thousands of full-time and even part-time jobs for cargo and passenger airlines as a result.
Even though other aspects of the airline industry are recovering in terms of fleet, routes, and passenger demand, airlines are still struggling to fill job gaps.
Despite the fact that US cargo and passenger airlines added over 20,000 jobs in December 2021, employment remained 2.9 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
The number of jobs added in January 2022 was much smaller, at just over 3,400, keeping unemployment at 2.3 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
In terms of passenger airlines, American Airlines took the lead with over 1,300 new hires, followed closely by Southwest Airlines with 1,132 new hires.
On either hand, there was only a 368-person increase in January, with FedEx taking the lead among cargo carriers.
Despite the fact that the numbers appear to be improving on a consistent basis, there is still a significant pilot shortage.
When the pandemic slowed things down, the number of commercial pilot certificate holders increased from 2015 to 2020.
Even though aviation academies are filling more slots and airlines are actively hiring, there will be approximately 17 percent fewer active commercial pilot certificates in 2021 than there were in 2009.
It probably doesn’t help that hiring a pilot isn’t as easy as it appears, given the rigorous months of required training, which costs both money and time.
Considering that flight crews can only work a limited number of hours per day, airlines require an adequate operable crew on hand as well as a reasonable number of replacement crews to account for bad weather that may cause delays.
The lack of commercial pilots has undoubtedly led to a supple-chain issue, although the demand is robust. Airlines have had to carry out mass cancellations in the past couple of months.
Just yesterday, there were close to 220 flight cancellations within the US. That number has jumped to just over 230 flight cancellations today.
After two years of inactivity, the upcoming summer schedule will most likely be the busiest yet.
Flight cancellations are on the rise, and this, combined with the trimming of flight schedules just before the busy travel season, is causing quite a headache for passengers.