American Airlines dangles $250,000 bonus to lure pilots from FedEx and UPS to fill job shortage that has led to cancelled and delayed flights
American Airlines is offering as much as bonuses of up to $250,000 to attract cargo pilots from UPS and FedEx to work on its passenger jets after it was forced to cancel flights due to staffing shortages.
PSA Airlines, a regional airline owned by American, is offering a $175,000 bonus included in the first salary, while another $75,000 will be paid after a year to cargo pilots who come to work as captains of passenger flights, reported The Wall Street Journal.
FedEx and UPS are encouraging their airlines to consider the offer, as a decline in demand and package volume is causing the companies to suspend flights.
Described as the ‘captain crunch’, passenger airlines have been forced to cancel or postpone flights because they lack the necessary captains and first officers to operate.
“We continue to face a captain shortage that is impacting our ability to fully utilize our regional fleet,” said Heather Garboden, senior vice president of regionals and cargo at American.
PSA Airlines, a regional airline owned by American, is offering bonuses of up to $250,000 to UPS and FedEx cargo pilots who fly passenger planes
Last year, American Airlines had to end service to three regional airports due to staff shortages
In 2023, flight delays reached a ten-year high. Data from the flight tracking platform FlightAware shows that 21.4 percent of flights were delayed by an average of 50 minutes in the past year.
Kathleen Bangs, a FlightAware spokeswoman and former pilot, told Ny Breaking.com that a post-pandemic pilot shortage and fewer available flights amid skyrocketing demand are contributing to the frustrating delays travelers are experiencing.
Last year, American Airlines had to end flights to three regional airports in Toledo, Ohio; Ithaca, New York and Islip, New York due to staff shortages.
The air cargo sector is facing declining demand, and regional airlines are hoping to attract their surplus pilots.
UPS’s domestic average daily package volume fell 9 percent in the first nine months of this year, The Journal reported.
In August the company offered acquisitions to almost 200 of the 3,400 pilots as a cost-saving measure.
PSA contacted UPS to attempt to recruit these pilots and the company shared that information with them.
FedEx said in July that it has more than 700 pilots, out of about 5,800, and encouraged its pilots to explore the offer.
“Given the industry’s weak air freight demand and current FedEx flight staffing levels, we have shared information about this unique opportunity with our pilots,” FedEx said in a statement.
A post-pandemic surge in demand for flights has prompted airlines to put more pilots at the helm of larger planes with which they have less experience, raising potential safety concerns, according to industry experts and pilot unions.
An FAA spokesperson told DailyMail.com in a statement: “We closely monitor airline safety data and have not seen an increase in incidents due to pilot experience levels.”
Major U.S. airlines have added nearly 10,000 pilots so far this year, putting them on pace to break last year’s record of more than 13,000 pilots.
The major U.S. airlines often recruit pilots from regional airlines, meaning that while new hires still have extensive flying experience, they may have spent less time piloting the larger aircraft common in the major airlines’ fleets.
FedEx said in July that it has more than 700 pilots, out of about 5,800, and encouraged its pilots to explore the offer
In August, UPS offered buyouts to nearly 200 of its 3,400 pilots and informed their workforce of PSA’s offer
Now regional airlines like PSA Airlines are looking to fill that gap with pilots from FedEx and UPS with their lucrative offerings.
FedEx first officers earn about $156 to $238 per hour, depending on the type of aircraft they fly and their seniority. According to The Journal, FedEx captains earn $235 to $336 per hour.
PSA captains currently earn between $150 per hour as a new hire and $217.50 per hour for those with the most experience.
Those coming from FedEx and UPS would be recognized for their years of experience in pay and benefits.