The thousands of airline pilots who are furloughed or working overseas when they would prefer to fly for a U.S. airline and live in this country makes it clear that no shortage of trained and qualified airline pilots currently exists in the United States, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA). “There may be a shortage of qualified pilots who are willing to fly for U.S. airlines because of the industry’s recent history of instability, poor pay, and benefits,” said Capt. Lee Moak, president of ALPA. “But thousands of highly qualified and experienced U.S. airline pilots are either furloughed or working overseas and eager to return to U.S airline cockpits—under the right conditions.” According to ALPA, some 1,154 of its members are currently are furloughed from their airlines, including Comair, which closed in 2012 and furloughed more than 850 trained and experienced pilots, nearly all of whom are looking for jobs; and ASTAR, Evergreen and Ryan, which shut down and put some 800 pilots out of work.
ALPA said that thousands of U.S. pilots now fly for foreign airlines because those airlines’ stability, pay, and benefits are much greater than those offered by U.S airlines. They pointed out that the average first officer (copilot) starting salary at 14 U.S. regional airlines is $21,285/year plus benefits and that Delta and United start copilots at $61,000/year plus benefits, while at Emirates Airlines, new-hire copilots receive $82,000/year plus a housing allowance and other extraordinary benefits. Similarly, Cathay Pacific pays new copilots $72,000/year plus a housing allowance and other extraordinary benefits. Many expatriate U.S. pilots say they would return to the United States if airline industry conditions improve here. Capt. Moak asserted, “The real solution to preventing any future pilot shortage is for airlines to produce consistently profitable results. Congress can support this goal by implementing pro-growth aviation policies that reduce the tax burden on airlines and give the industry an opportunity to compete and prevail in the international marketplace.”