As travel numbers continue to climb in the U.S., airlines are poaching pilots from countries where the recovery is lagging in a domino scenario that could seriously threaten the aviation recovery in some places. Australian officials say they’re worried a recruiting drive by U.S. airlines in their country will hamstring the industry when its pandemic recovery finally begins. Australia still has strict travel restrictions in effect and flight schedules are at about 25 percent of pre-COVID-19 level while the U.S. rate is about 80 percent.
At least two U.S. regional carriers, GoJet and Skywest, are conducting interviews and 9News is reporting that about 70 pilots have inquired. U.S. regionals are scrambling for pilots because the majors have poached from them to cover shortages resulting from the pandemic downturn. Foreign pilots can qualify to work in the U.S. under an E-3 visa that allows pilots with an offer of employment to work for a minimum of two years with a chance to extend that period. Further complicating Australia’s situation is the fact that about 25 percent of the pilots who are left are no longer current.