ALPA Says There Are Plenty Of Pilots, Instructors


The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) says the training pipeline is producing more than enough pilots to meet current and future needs and airlines are falsely blaming a pilot and instructor shortage for their operations problems. It’s not the first time ALPA has made the claim, and this time it used FAA stats that show that 8805 ATP-MELs were issued in the first 11 months of 2022, “once again exceeding analyst forecasts and airline demand for new aviators—and putting the U.S. on pace to break pilot production records this year.”

The union said there are now almost 87,000 CFIs in the U.S., about 10 percent more than at the end of 2019, “further demonstrating that the commercial airline pilot pipeline remains strong and robust.” According to the union, that proves that a pilot shortage is not to blame for what it calls “profit-driven service cuts” and efforts to reduce the number of hours required to get into the right seat of an airliner.

What the news release doesn’t reconcile is the massive pay increases airlines have been offering to recruit and retain pilots and how that squares with the surplus it says the statistics demonstrate. Nevertheless, outgoing ALPA President Joe DePete says it’s a great time to be an airline pilot, especially considering the pay hikes. “Many regional carriers are raising wages and offering viable career paths; mainline airlines are hiring; and lawmakers have resisted efforts by the special interests to weaken pilot safety training standards,” he said in the news release.

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  1. I’ve been saying this for years. Notice the mainline carriers have not been complaining, only the regional airlines have. And who pays better? Mainline carriers do. The only shortage is of experienced pilots willing to fly for nothing. It’s time to let market supply and demand play out.

  2. What the AOPA doesn’t mention in this article is that most of the ATP/ME recipients are getting their ATP/ME at the time they complete initial training as a new hire at the regional carrier where they were hired. Another aviation apples and oranges juggling act. ALPA, APA, SWAPA and other pilot unions are doing the same word salad juggling act.

  3. How many of those CFIs are actively doing training? So many instructors, myself included, aren’t doing training but still have a current CFI certificate. I keep it that way because I don’t want to have to do the checkride again, but I have no plans on using it anytime soon. The same goes for ATP certificates for a lot of pilots.

    ALPA loves to cite these statistics, but rarely likes to give the full story.

  4. ALPA is blaming “profit driven service cuts” while they exist to advocate for higher pilot compensation (whatever contract increases are negotiated are NEVER enough with airline pilots) which drive up costs? A company can’t serve an unprofitable route, only in unions does money grow on trees, and terms like “cost of doing business” are cavalierly thrown around to justify untenable demands. There aren’t enough customers and revenue in many small markets to justify putting a 737 into the schedule, and the costs for regional jets is even higher on a CASM basis.

    There is a qualified pilot shortage. ALPA pretends that all of those ATP’s currently serving outside the airline industry can suddenly quit and staff airlines. To hell with the rest of the critical aviation industry. It’s infantile, self interested thinking.

    ALPA’s statement seems to be at odds both with reality, and with their own interests.

    • “ALPA pretends that all of those ATP’s currently serving outside the airline industry can suddenly quit and staff airlines”

      Exactly. I’m working on my ATP-SEL (and eventually my ATP-MEL, once I get the additional required ME time), but only because I need to always be working toward a new rating. I have zero plans to get an airline job, even if I could be immediately hired at my current non-aviation job’s pay. The constant time away from home and working on holidays is not for me at this point in my life.

  5. Please remember that the driving factor for the unions is to increase their dues money inflow. As a former Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, I have seen the truth and it is not what the unions, airline companies or what is politically “correct” government gibberish think. In essence, this entire polyglot “crew” haven’t a clue beyond their tiny sliver of perspective on the issue. During my multi decades of flying for the airlines (TWA, AA, AirTran and SWA) the shortage was looming and no real solutions were in the offing. We are in a real crisis and when it hits big time, the industry will be sitting around talking about “What Happened”. We’re screwed!

  6. I won’t dispute the union comments, on the other hand there was a reason the unions came about in the first place. I’m going to bet that a large majority of those new ATP-MEL were paid for by either the airlines who hired those pilots or the charter companies, due to the cost of the sim training requirements of the current rules. I believe pilot candidates are getting smart and are going for what they would consider is the best way to get their flying career going and not flying for nothing any more. I have known many former airline pilots who went through furloughs only to leave aviation for various reasons. There has not been a lot of recent news about the alleged shortage of CFIs. Airline fares have been unrealistically low for years, with the government doing all it can to keep it that way. Now with the current experience rules the cost of those pilots have gone up. The airlines have taken advantage of pilots willing to fly for nothing for years and now that that supply is drying up they are crying about the increased cost of those pilots they get. If a route cannot be profitable and has to be dropped then so be it. Same with different types of airplanes. If the government now will stop supplying financial support and let those airlines who are unable to stay profitable go under, the pilot supply situation will work itself out. That is how a free market is supposed to work. As I have said many times in the past, there is no such thing as a pilot “shortage” in this country, only a shortage of pilots willing to work for nothing.

    • This is the problem with the modern union. Once they get in, they are almost impossible to get rid of because among their tactics is to negotiate for very high benefits and compensation for senior employees at the expense of the newer ones.

  7. An interesting economic fact I like to check on from year to year is what the per pax cost of the pilot salaries is looking like. Taking the latest number of US airline pilots at 135,000 and an estimated 900million passengers we appear to be approaching again… It would cost $7.50 per pax to ADD $50k to each pilot salary per year. If you think about what the airlines did with baggage fees this is not some difficult economic stretch to pay pilots well. They simply have never had too at the entry level and probably won’t until its too late…the pump loses its prime and kids figure out a better place to invest $150-200k.