Airlines offered pilots early retirements to cut labor bills during the depths of the pandemic. The process to become airline-qualified in the U.S. is lengthy and expensive, making the barrier to entry high. The pandemic exacerbated a pilot shortage by slowing down training and hiring.

The United States is facing its worst pilot shortage in recent memory. At least one lawmaker is said to be considering legislation that could raise the federally-mandated retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67 or higher. A regional airline proposed reducing flight-hour requirements before joining a U.S. carrier.

Several U.S. airlines, including Frontier, are recruiting some pilots from Australia. Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines joined other big carriers in dropping a four-year degree from its pilot hiring requirements. Several U.K. airlines are also looking to hire more pilots.

The pilot shortage could take years to solve, United Airlines CEO says. The Covid pandemic halted pilot hiring as training and licensing slowed. About 150 regional airlines United works with currently have about 150 airplanes grounded because of the pilot shortage. American Airlines is selling bus tickets for some short routes.
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