ALPA Rejects Boost In Retirement Age


The Air Line Pilots Association says raising the retirement age for pilots is no magic bullet for the current shortage and it will oppose any attempt to make the change. For the past week there have been unverified reports on social media of pending legislative action to boost the retirement age to 67 or 68 from the current 65 as a quick fix to the staffing crisis. In fact, says ALPA, simply waving that not-so-magic wand will create chaos in the current seniority-based flight bidding process because the rest of the world is sticking with 65 as the retirement age and the older pilots won’t be able to bid on the international flights most of them fly.

“When age 65+ airline pilots return to domestic-only flying, they will then displace more junior pilots and both cohorts may require training on different aircraft, adding to the training costs of air carriers,” ALPA said in a statement. “Furthermore, most regional airline pilots leave the regional industry long before age 65 for more lucrative jobs at mainline or low-cost carriers or other opportunities. Therefore, the pool of domestic-service pilots will not increase appreciably without additional training costs or disruptions.”

ALPA blames the current delays, cancellations and other mayhem at the airport on what it says is the mismanagement of COVID relief funds doled out to the airlines when restrictions collapsed the market. “This discussion is yet another attempt to distract the conversation from the real issue which is the failure of airlines to deliver on a key goal of the multibillion-dollar relief plan Congress provided them during the pandemic which was to effectively manage air-service operations as travel resumes,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. He called the talk of a boost in retirement age a bid “to divert attention away from their mismanagement of the pandemic relief, while attempting to weaken aviation safety.” 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. 15 years ago the FAA required me to retire at age 60. Then magically, bush junior, signs Senate Bill S-65 to rescind the age 60 retirement mandate on 13 Dec, 2007. What study was made to determine it was now safe to fly till 65? What study has been done to increase that to 67-68?

    The airlines can reduce the demand for their product by raising fares hence balancing available pilot supply with a reduced flight schedule. This may also decrease the offensive behavior by those that should be shuttled around on a bus, train or cattle trailer.

    • Airlines have already adjusted prices. 3 years ago I flew across the country for about $250. Now a similar flight will cost me over $800.

  2. I don’t like the idea of putting an arbitrary age limit for pt121 flying. It sets a precedent that some politicians have tried to apply to pt135 and pt91K ops as well. On the other hand the union has a valid point as far as misuse and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars given to the airlines during the pandemic in the past 2 years. That money was supposed to be used to help avoid the lack of pilots and other employees when the pandemic restrictions ended, not line management’s pockets.

  3. Back in the day I had to retire from British Airways at 55. As a current B747-400 captain I next moved to SIA as a line Captain same type. Their retirement age was 60, so returned to the UK after 5 happy years in Singapore as a training captain for EasyJet on the 737-300 & – 700NG. At age 63 went to Boeing Seattle to fly the acceptance airtest on a new 737 and then ferry it to London Luton. My age would have prevented a line flight for a USA airline, but an airtest and ferry flight was considered safe, although somewhat more stressful than a comfortable line sector, age should not be a barrier, lack of fitness and or proficiency should.

  4. I remember when the first age extension passed and for awhile it was not allowed to have more than one over 60 guy on the flight deck at a time. For the most part there was nothing wrong with the older pilots. I did fly once with an over 60 Captain that left the turn signal on all the way across the Atlantic though…………

  5. The FAA has, for decades, had the age 56 mandatory retirement requirement for air traffic controllers in spite of controller shortages. Many controllers, just like pilots, still have the skills and knowledge to continue working well past 56 and could have alleviated staffing issues across the country. NATCA, the union representing all FAA controllers, has fought every attempt at changing this mandatory retirement every time. Just like the ALPA.

    Unions usually are controlled, or “influenced”, by the younger members. To any union, helping members increase seniority by artificially removing the “top” of the seniority pyramid is a win. If it also creates or maintains a “shortage” of workers, so much the better, as that increases the leverage of the Union.

    Unions represent their members. Like the companies they negotiate with, they are not interested in what is good for the public in general, or fair for all parties, or what is the right thing to do. Their view will always reflect what is best for the Union. Their opinion, while obviously important, will always represent only one side of an important and complex issue. Ironically, the ALPA, NATCA, and all other unions, have the same ultimate goal as the companies they negotiate with; to gain as much power as they possibly can. Just the nature of the beast.

  6. Any changes should add months, not years, at a time. Simply doing that solves much of the problems, and the arguments. Of course, it adds work for bureaucrats, but it should reduce their risk as well.

    As far as I can tell, one group who ought to have less input is a union. If the union representatives are not doing what they think benefits the pilots, then they are corrupt, and ought to be ignored. If they are speaking on behalf of pilots, then they are biased, and ought to be heard with a skeptical ear. Of course, we should hear from pilots speaking in their capacity as experts, not employees or representatives of labor groups, as well as doctors and others.

    We should also be mostly concerned with safety and best policies for all times. We currently have high fuel prices and lack of supply because factions against the use of petroleum, romantics, and corrupt politicians argue against best policies because they will not solve the current crisis. We are, of course, hearing suggestions for such policies rejected during the last dozen fuel crises. So, anyone saying raising the age limit won’t help the current shortage is suspect. Anyone saying raising the limit should not be done because it won’t solve the current shortage should be sidelined from the conversation having shown their lack of character.

  7. ALPA is nothing but a “PITA” that takes member money with not much in return. Younger pilots want older pilots gone so they can advance. They are stupid and don’t realize that one day they will be older and have some younger guy wanting them gone.
    Pilots subject to mandatory age-related retirement should also be qualified to receive full SOC SEC benefits when they are forced to retire by Government mandate. How in the world are they supposed to live without a job that was taken away by age discrimination?

  8. “The rest of the world is sticking with 65”; not true; Canada, among other countries with an excellent safety record, has no mandatory retirement age for pilots.
    The original age 60 retirement age was bogus; cooked up to get rid of some people.
    When ICAO looked at reality, they studied the medical situations of thousands of pilots, and could find no reason for an arbitrary age.
    The “Over/Under” rule was brought in to mollify the doubters, and was supposed to go away with any arbitrary age. Without notice, ICAO made a recommendation counter to their medical findings, and some countries accepted it.
    In the US, Congress got into something they have no knowledge of and made 65 mandatory.
    There is no reason for an arbitrary retirement age; I was forced out at 60, went on to fly difficult missions in war zones, then do Line Indoctrination on a bizjet.
    Still competent long after 65. Don’t wear glasses or take any medication!
    Those in my union, who claimed that “no-one should fly past 60”, are all doing so happily, having leapt ahead in seniority by forcing others out; ALPA is no different and should be ashamed!

  9. As a 20k hr 121 Capt with a degree in aeronautical engineering and a background testing USAF fighters, I’ll be told to go home based on a birthday. I’ve never had a FAA violation. I’ve never had an incident or accident. Never had any medical issues. Yet the surgeon that will operate on your brain can work indefinitely. Or the judge that has the authority to put someone to death, no mandatory retirement age. As an engineer I’m very numbers oriented. I would love to see the data indicating the increase in incident, accident, violation rate for those over 60 as compared to those under 30. You will never see this data from those pushing to hold the age at 65 because those violations incidents & accidents are far far greater amongst the inexperienced pilots. Most only have a high school education as compared to those that got into the industry when a 4 yr degree was required.
    If this was about safety they’d change the EKG the a stress test & add an EEG (electroencephalogram). And how about referencing BMI to a pilot’s health. This all will never happen. Because although it would clear many to continue past 65, close to 20 percent of the pilots would lose their medical.
    That makes you feel good about being in the back of an airplane. Safety my …

    • And apparently a man who is 108 can serve as President…mental acuity not a required qualification…

  10. One other note. The vast number of ALPA pilots pound the chest about how conservative their values are. Good strong republicans. Yet the republican party’s fiscal conservatism includes support for lower taxes, free market capitalism, deregulation of corporations, and restrictions on labor unions. I think that is the very definition of hypocrisy.

  11. The pilot shortage won’t last long. The coming recession (depression?) will take care of that.