CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Airlines are seeking solutions to a pilot shortage that is affecting summer travel plans across the country, leading to delayed flights and frustrated passengers.
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic led to many pilots taking early retirement, and some airlines didn't expect passengers to come surging back so quickly. Now they're doing everything they can to hire more pilots before customers find another way to travel.
To become an airline pilot, candidates must have 1,500 hours in the sky. There are a few exceptions, including military-trained pilots and those who attend two- and four-year programs that include flight training. That training isn't cheap, though.
“Anything worth doing is going to cost you something. Time, energy and money, and this is definitely worth it," Michael Herrmann, manager of ground training flight operations at Piedmont, said. "The return on investment is huge."
Piedmont Airlines is investing in its pilots to grow its workforce. Pilots who choose Piedmont can now earn over $180,000 in bonuses. Pay is a big hurdle for many companies.
"I think it sets us apart," Chris Reece, a flight operations recruiter for Piedmont, said. "There's never been a better time to become an airline pilot. Even though the training is expensive, we're trying to help with that."
From flight simulation to classes, Piedmont is training the next generation of aviators. Herrmann said instead of recruiting one specific type of candidate, they're training a diverse group, all to help the company move forward past the pandemic.
Piedmont Airlines told WCNC Charlotte it hopes to bring 600 pilots on board.
“There’s a lot of studying involved, a lot of dedication and time involved with that studying," Joseph Jewell, a pilot for Piedmont, said.
Jewell has gone through Piedmont's flight training program and will soon receive a big bonus. At just 25 years old, he says the money is life-changing.
"It's crazy, it's mind-boggling," he said. "I can't even imagine what it was like for pilots just 10 or 15 years ago when the pay isn't what we make now."
Below is additional information on Piedmont's bonuses and incentives:
- Cadet Contract Bonus: $30,000. For people still earning their flight hours and just starting out, Piedmont will pay you along the way to help pay for your training until you get your hours to become a first officer.
- Plus, Pilots with specific experience or type ratings can earn additional bonuses.
- All in all, new pilots are eligible to earn up to $187,000 in bonuses.
- Pilot Pay & Benefits are listed here.
- No further interview required. Once you interview and get hired with Piedmont, you are guaranteed to flow to American Airlines when your seniority number is called (the average is 5 years) and you can fly for the Mainline Carrier.
- If you are a pilot with experience, there is no wait time for classes and instructors and we are hiring. Reach out to FlyPiedmont@aa.com with any questions.