Pilot shortage spurs airline to lure workers with interest-free loans

When many travelers struggled with delays or canceled flights last summer, airlines repeatedly invoked the same excuse: There weren’t enough pilots to keep up with demand.

Now one airline is trying to bring more pilots into the fold by removing financial barriers to getting a license.

On Thursday, Mesa Air Group announced the purchase of 29 new pilot training aircraft that will allow them to accumulate the federally required 1,500 flight hours, along with plans to potentially purchase 75 more over the next year.

Flight time isn’t free and is often a hindrance for aspiring pilots. As a result, Mesa plans to provide interest-free loans to ease the burden. Pilots in training with the airline are eligible for up to 40 hours of flight time per week at a rate of $25 per hour, fully funded by Mesa.

become a pilot

Mesa says the new trainers will form the backbone of its Mesa pilot development program. “Our program will be the most cost-effective and one of the fastest paths to a long-term career as a commercial pilot,” said John Hornibrook, Mesa’s SVP Flight Operations, in a press release. “We want to make it as easy as possible for a whole new field of candidates to join Mesa, including and especially for people who have not traditionally thought about aviation.”

Those who enroll in the program also have priority employment with Mesa, repaying their loans over a three-year period while employed by the airline, with the first-year pay rate being US$100, according to the company -dollars per hour.

Pilot shortage is getting worse

Earlier this month, management consultancy Oliver Wyman released a report outlining an existing shortage of 8,000 pilots in the commercial airline industry, a shortage expected to grow to 80,000 within a decade.

“Pilot shortages could become an enduring feature of the airline industry if we don’t add more pilots to the system,” said Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa’s chairman and CEO, in the press release. “If there aren’t enough trained pilots, customers suffer from service disruptions and high ticket prices.”

The program is slated to start in Florida before expanding to Arizona next year. Once fully established, the program is expected to accommodate over 1,000 pilots per year and 2,000 flight hours per day.

Sign up for the Fortune Features Email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews and investigations.

Comments are closed.