HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you ever wanted to be a pilot, now may be the best time, and it could help ease airline disruptions due to staffing shortages.
WEATHER AND STAFFING DISRUPTING SUMMER TRAVEL
This summer, the need for commercial pilots is on full display. On Friday, Bush Intercontinental Airport had a quarter of its flights canceled or delayed.
Weather is a big factor. But so are staff shortages, which is an issue even the pilots are aware of.
"We're still hustling trying to meet the demand," United pilot Corey Shepard said. "Our flights are full, and we're flying every minute of the day."
Fewer flights and inflation are impacting prices. The latest consumer price index report shows airfare cost about $350 in June. Last summer, it was $250.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for airline pilots will grow by 13% over the decade.
That's higher than other industries. One reason why is the pandemic forced many to leave the business.
"During 2020, for about six months, I only flew once a month," Shepard recalled.
It was tough, but Shepard wouldn't do anything else.
"It's the best job in the world," Shepard said.
He's not alone. United pilot Brian Brown also stuck with flying during the pandemic.
"There's no other job like this job," Brown explained.
AIRLINES PUSH TO FIND THOUSANDS OF PILOTS BY 2030
United is hoping to find more pilots. The company wants to hire 10,000 by 2030.
"That's a whole lot of pilots," Brown said.
It's not just United. The job outlook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there's a massive need for pilots. It's projected that 14,500 pilots will be needed every year through 2030.
Both Brown and Shepard hope many come from Houston. They're both local, graduating from HISD and Texas Southern University.
"I think we're going to see the airlines really start to invest in our youth to fill that need," Shepard said.
HOW YOU CAN BECOME A PILOT
Since there's a pilot push, many airlines, including United, are making it easier than ever before to become a pilot. United offers scholarships.
There's another way both Brown and Shepard know well. Texas Southern University has an aviation program.
The school has an aviation program that partners with airlines, including United, where students learn to fly in the air and ground with simulators.
"It makes me excited knowing that the opportunity is there," student Anthony Pumphrey Jr. said. "All I have to do is reach out and grab it."
Pumphrey wants to follow in his father's footsteps, and the timing may never be better.
"It's sad flights are getting canceled, but it's saying, 'Hey, they need help,' and I'm going to try and be the person to answer the call," Pumphrey explained.
Airlines hope thousands of others answer the call.
"If you're interested in becoming a pilot, now more than ever is the best time to start your training and make your way into the flight deck," Brown explained.
It's a job that pays a six-figure salary and helps cut down future cancelations and delays.