Multiple US airlines are now so desperate for staff that they’ve swapped planes for buses on some shorter routes.
Several carriers, including American Airlines have hired coach companies to carry passengers when the distances are small.
American will bus people between Philadelphia and between multiple other airports that would only be a short hop away by air.
The service will start June 3 between Philadelphia International and airports in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey with the bus company called Landline.
Meanwhile, United is offering one-stop connectivity to both Fort Collins and Breckenridge, with four daily buses from Denver to the former and just one to the latter.
American Airlines will bus people between Philadelphia and several airport pairs that are only a short hop away by air
The bus services come as US airlines face a pilot shortage forcing them to ramp up training programs and even recruit pilots from overseas.
Breeze Airways, a discount carrier and SkyWest, are both recruiting foreign pilots from Australia in a bid to ramp-up staff numbers.
The industry is also raising pay in the hope of attracting and retaining pilots.
An average of 14,500 new pilots each year until 2030, according to federal labor statistics.
Landline, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, has similar deals with Sun Country Airlines in seven cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin
‘The pilot shortage for the industry is real and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,’ Scott Kirby, chief executive officer of United Airlines said last week during a conference call. ‘
‘It will likely force United to keep 150 regional planes parked despite increased domestic travel demand,’ he said.
Landline and American made no mention of the pilot shortage instead pitching the bus service as ‘an easier way’ to get between the Philadelphia airport and Lehigh International Airport in Allentown 73 miles away, and Atlantic City International Airport, 56 miles away.
Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning, said it would help customers connect to the airline’s international flights from Philadelphia.
United Airlines in Denver also plans to bus some of its passengers
American’s regional affiliate, American Eagle, operates flights from Allentown to Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina. The Fort Worth, airline does not serve Atlantic City.
Landline, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, has similar deals with United Airlines in Denver and Sun Country Airlines in seven cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The company said it raised $28 million to expand its geographic reach.
Even before the pandemic, airlines were facing staffing shortages when it came to pilots.
When Covid struck, the travel downturn saw thousands of pilots furloughed or retiring early.
It left the industry struggling to recover when travel resumed, according to Bloomberg and it now means airlines are not able to find enough qualified crews to fully reinstate route maps.
Breeze Airways, a discount carrier, plans to recruit some of its pilots from Australia
‘This is going to be one of the biggest constraints for the industry going forward,’ Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said last week during a call.
Airlines have been anticipating a huge boon to the travel industry for summer 2022.
The number of tickets sold in February for those traveling between June and August of this year was down just three percent from February 2019 but carriers have scaled back their schedules compared to pre-pandemic times.
In summer of 2021, scheduled flights were down 16 percent from the summer of 2019.
This year, United says flying will be down 13% from 2019, with Delta Air Lines projecting a 16% fall. American will be down by around 8% with Alaska down 9%. JetBlue has trimmed 10% of its summer flights.
Airlines have been anticipating a huge boon to the travel industry for summer 2022. Pictured, during the pandemic, many planes were parked up. American housed some jets in Pittsburgh
JetBlue said that despite already hiring 2,500 new workers this year, it’s still unable to fill all the openings needed for a fuller summer schedule.
‘We’ve already reduced May capacity 8-10 percent and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer,’ Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s COO and president, said in an email to staff obtained by CNBC last week .
The problems are worse at the smaller regional carriers with many pilots having moved on and hired by larger carriers.
‘We don’t have the regional aircraft flying the summer right now [that] we would like,’ American’s chief executive officer, Robert Isom, told CNBC. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to come in and fly planes. They can make a lot of money.’
‘This is the pivotal point,’ Faye Malarkey Black, chief executive of the Regional Airline Association, said to Bloomberg. ‘We have not seen this level of service loss since right after 9-11, when that crisis changed the fly-drive equation. I expect this bad situation to get worse before it gets better, no matter what we do.’