Hirings by US majors at lowest level for 10 years, and job seekers face large drops in pay

Pilot hiring in the USA is projected to remain at the lowest rate in a decade for at least the next year with more highly paid jobs being cut than created, according to a major recruitment agency.

Aviation Information Resources (AIR) estimates 7,075 pilots will be hired in 2003, but major carriers will only account for 11% or 800 of these jobs. The seven majors planning to hire pilots in 2003 are all on the bottom half of the pay scale, while the top tier majors are instead expected to step up lay-offs. Almost 8,000 pilots are already laid off in the USA.

US majors hired a combined 549 pilots last year, an 89% drop compared with 2000 and the lowest figure since 1993. Five second-tier majors - ATA, America West Airlines, Alaska Airlines, FedEx Express and Southwest Airlines - accounted for all the new hires and AIR president Kit Darby expects only DHL Airways and UPS Airlines to join this list in 2003.

"The rest have cut back a lot, so I don't expect any more to jump on that bandwagon," he says.

Darby expects the large majors to continue to furlough more pilots - albeit at a slow pace - until they return to profitability. Furloughed pilots seeking jobs elsewhere have no choice but to take huge pay cuts because only low-fare carriers, regionals and business jet operators are hiring. Regionals Atlantic Coast Airlines, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair were the top three recruiters last year and even Southwest slashed hiring by 58%. Pilots looking to move up in Southwest may have a better outlook in 2008, when the pilot retirement rate is expected almost to double compared with current rates - assuming efforts to raise the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 fail.

Source: Flight International