A pilot shortage is creating travel problems, but it's also helping others find high-paying jobs

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Friday, July 15, 2022
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As cancellations and delays grow this summer, airlines are scrambling to find pilots after the COVID-19 pandemic created an industry shortage.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As cancellations and delays grow this summer, airlines are scrambling to find pilots after the COVID-19 pandemic created an industry shortage.

After two years of the pandemic, summer travel is in full force. While COVID kept anxiety high for some passengers, this summer there's another reason.

The pilot shortage is a concern the Smiths hope doesn't impact their international flight.

"What I've been trying to do is have control over everything we can have control over, and if we don't, we're going to get real cozy at an airport," Hilary Smith said.

Flightaware, which tracks flights, said on some days this summer, the average delay was nearly an hour and a half, with almost 7% of all flights canceled.

"It's certainly a concern," passenger Christian Smith said.

One reason for the issue is the weather. Another is there aren't enough pilots, as many of them left during the pandemic. Age is also forcing out others because you can't be a pilot past the age of 65.

One of those airlines looking for pilots is United - a company Brian Brown joined nearly 10 years ago.

"There's no other job like this job," Brown said. "You fly all over the world. You meet different people every time you come to work."

Corey Shepard, a fellow Houston-based pilot, shares the same passion as Brown.

"It's the best job in the world," Shepard said.

Piloting is a job United needs to desperately fill. The airline wants to hire 10,000 pilots by 2030.

But United isn't the only airline hiring. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said there are 4,500 commercial pilot openings a year over the next decade.

These are spots that Shepard is trying to fill. He works with students at United's aviation school, a place where candidates can earn scholarships to help cut down costs as pilot training can cost $100,000.

"There are some financial obstacles, but don't let it deter you," Shepard said. "There are scholarships available. There's financial aid available."

On average, commercial pilot jobs pay $100,000.

"Now is the time," Brown said. "There's a shortage. Everyone is hiring."

The job openings are some that passengers hope are filled as they get ready for their next vacation.

"I'm hoping like, everywhere else, we're finding ways to keep employees happy, and people want to come back because obviously, we need it," Smith said.

Being a pilot is a six-figure career that can take you places, and reduce delays and cancellations as the industry comes out of the pandemic.

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