United Airlines Unable To Find Flight Captains, Fears It Will Impact Travelers
Photo Credit: Photo credit: Pascal Borener

Photo Credit: Photo credit: Pascal Borener

United Airlines Unable To Find Flight Captains, Fears It Will Impact Travelers

Jasmine Osby
Jasmine Osby Jul 25, 2023

In addition to flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage and disgruntled staff, airlines are having difficulty finding pilots to serve as captains. A representative from United Airlines announced in the earnings call that many airline pilots are declining promotions to captain. United Airlines’ CEO Scott Kirby said the captain shortage could result in reduced flights and will impact travelers. 

“It’s the first time that I’ve ever known it to happen in the airline industry,” Kirby told investors on the earnings call. “It is going to impact capacity in the fourth quarter.”

Captains are responsible for the overall safety of the aircraft. To fly, a plane needs two pilots. The captain makes command decisions and receives a higher rate of pay than the co-pilot. 

United Airlines
Photo credit: Matheus Bertelli

The reason for the captain shortage is pilots wanting to maintain a decent quality of life outside of work. According to a report from Reuters, out of 978 captain vacancies, 50 percent have gone unfilled over the past year at United Airlines. The report also said the intense scheduling for captain positions typically don’t match the pay rate offered to pilots. 

Kirby described United Airlines’ plan to strike a better deal with pilots geared toward a better work-life balance for captains. He said his hope is to make the company a friendlier experience for its customers and staff. 

“We promised our world-class pilots the industry-leading contract they deserve, and we’re pleased to have reached an agreement with ALPA [Air Line Pilots Association] on it,” he wrote. “The four-year agreement, once ratified, will deliver a meaningful pay raise and quality of life improvements for our pilots while putting the airline on track to achieve the incredible potential of our United Next strategy.”

Although there is no confirmation that a deal has been agreed upon, Robert Mann, a former airline executive, told Reuters any future agreements will depend on airlines ability to provide pilot captains with a better work-life balance. 

“It’s not necessarily what’s in the agreement, but what happens every day in the real world,” Mann said. “The biggest complaints come with the least reliable schedule.”

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