US carriers are trying to make up for six consecutive years of staff reductions

US carriers are hiring across a wide swath of jobs skills as they prepare for growth and seek to compensate for what admittedly were too many layoffs.

The understaffing was clear this summer, when airlines simply did not have the ranks to handle the passenger loads and this was partly responsible for a near-disastrous service meltdown.

The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics says employment figures in the industry declined for 68 consecutive months until May, when the streak was finally broken. In June, the most recent month in which statistics are available, network carriers had 1.3% more workers than they did a year earlier.

US carriers hired 1,132 pilots in August, the second highest monthly figure for the year, according to Kit Darby of Atlanta-based career service AIR Inc. The number of pilots on furlough fell from 8,300 in August 2006 to just over 3,500 this August. Darby predicts 12,000 total new jobs will have been created by year-end. He adds that some regional carriers have lowered their requirements and will consider applications from pilots with as ­little as 250 hours of total flying time, while other carriers are offering signing and training-completion bonuses of as much as $5,000 and pilot-referral bonuses of as much as $1,000 for successful candidates.

United is hiring 100 pilots and US Airways plans to hire 350 pilots this year as it promotes from its regional to its mainline fleet. Northwest is hiring some 250 new pilots to avoid the cancellation problems it suffered this summer when it did not have enough crew to fly overtime. Airlines are also hiring flight attendants and baggage handlers. Northwest is actively seeking cabin crew and US Airways is looking for loading personnel at its Philadelphia hub and elsewhere.

Source: Airline Business