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According to a new report, flight delays and cancellations will plague the airline industry for the next ten years due to the shortage in the aviation industry of commercial pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers.
ACBS News analysis of data from the FAA, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Labor found that the current situation will only worsen with time, as the industry is 32,000 commercial pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers short of what is necessary to perform smoothly. Some estimates say that airlines worldwide could run 60,000 pilots short by 2030.
The number of delays that arose from issues that air carriers can control soared from 5.2% in 2018 to 7.6% in 2023, resulting in thousands of delayed flights. As recently as June 24-27, 31,850 flights, representing one third of all flights nationwide, were delayed, 25% higher than the year before for
Between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, 2022, Southwest Airlines canceled 14,042 flights, 72.3% of all canceled flights nationwide, the Department of Transportation acknowledged.
A spokesperson for Airlines-4-America, which represents seven of the nation’s biggest carriers, stated, ‘U.S. airlines recognize the importance of securing a pipeline of new employees—pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and others—and have established new pilot training programs, enhanced recruitment efforts and implemented programs to address financial hurdles.”
“They are leaving planes on the ground because they don’t have enough people to fly them for ground crews or anything like that,” Wichita State University emeritus associate professor Dean Headley, who has published the Airline Quality Rating since 1991, told CBS News. “The airlines are doing about as much as they can [to improve staffing levels]. They can train about 1,500 to 1,800 pilots a year.”
“Some of the predictions I’m hearing is that the pilot shortage won’t be resolved until 2032 or something like that,” he concluded.
“That is the big unsung shortage that nobody talks about,” Kathleen Bangs, spokeswoman for flight tracking website FlightAware, said of the shortage of mechanics. “Most people don’t understand that about half of all airline maintenance is done overseas. So, we outsource a lot of that maintenance and I think it’s going to be challenging. We have to figure out a way — how do we attract young people to become mechanics, which are critical, but also at the same time they’re outsourcing more and more of their work?”
The aviation industry is running roughly 3,000 fully-certified air traffic controllers short, CBS News analysis found.
“The shortage is real, it’s impacting everyone who engages in air travel, and it’s an issue we have to address or ticket prices are going to continue to go up and the delays will continue to plague us,” said Joel English, the vice president of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM).