SkyWest Airlines is benefiting from favourable trends in pilot training and retention but is still 2,000 pilots short of market demand.
That is according to chief executive Chip Childs, who provided an update on the Utah-based carrier’s ongoing pilot shortage during SkyWest’s fourth-quarter earnings call on 1 February.
”When we were in pre-pandemic volumes, we had up to 5,400 pilots on property at SkyWest,” he says. “As of today, we are still about 1,000 pilot short of that number… and the demand that we see long-term is that we could use 1,000 pilots on top of that.”
“We have to dig ourselves out of this hole,” he continues. “This is not going to take one year or two years.”
During the Regional Airline Association Leaders Conference in September, Childs said the airline was 1,200 pilots short of pre-pandemic levels, suggesting recent progress.
However, SkyWest still isn’t producing enough captains. “Throughout 2024, we’re going to evaluate additional programmes to make sure that we’re vertically integrated with our partners to expand that captain production even further,” Childs says.
The carrier disclosed on 1 February that it has acquired a 25% stake in charter carrier Contour Airlines, partially due to interest in the company as a potential pilot pipeline.
SkyWest made $17.5 million on revenue of $752 million in the final three months of 2023, compared with a $47 million loss on $681 million of revenue generated during the prior-year period.
For the full year, SkyWest generated $2.94 billion in revenue, down from about $3 billion in 2022.
”With improved pilot attrition and ongoing strong demand for our product,” Childs says, “we are well set up for success in 2024 and beyond.”
SkyWest is expecting delivery of five Embraer 175s in 2024. Four of the jets will be positioned with United and one will fly on behalf of Delta.