Issue No. 859
U.S. Airlines Fight for Workers in a Tight Labor Market
Pushing Back: Inside the Issue
Staffing. That's the issue airlines in the U.S. are grappling with as they plan their summer schedules. The good news is that carriers are licking their chops in anticipation of a torrid summer of unleashed pent-up demand. The bad news? Some unions, American's pilots in particular, say the airlines have published schedules they can't possibly fly with the staff they have. Most other airlines are trimming capacity guidance as the summer season approaches.
The pilot shortage has been looming in the U.S. for a decade, but it's not just pilots that airlines are looking for. Carriers are competing with the likes of Amazon for ground and airport workers, and with manufacturers for maintenance technicians. On top of that, the Great Resignation is real, with workers across all sectors willing to walk away from jobs if their conditions aren't met. Airlines were stung last year by operational meltdowns as they struggled with matching capacity with staff. They learned their lessons, and have hired by the boatload — 15,000 at Delta alone since January 2021. But unions warn that airlines have not completely replaced the employees they lost through voluntary separations and buyouts early in the pandemic, and therefore are not equipped to handle this summer's traffic.
So what's the upshot? Delta, which was the first to report first-quarter earnings last week, says it will fly about 84 percent of 2019 summer capacity this year to align capacity with staffing. We'll find out where the other U.S. carriers stand this week when the bulk of them report their first-quarter earnings.
The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast
It’s that time of year again: Earnings! Delta kicked off the first quarter results season with better-than-expected financials that reflected the two halves of the quarter; one characterized by Omicron and the other by pent-up demand. Edward “Ned” Russell and Madhu Unnikrishnan also discuss how the U.S. pilot shortage has spread to mid-size carriers Alaska and JetBlue. Go here for the 'Lounge archive.