For those that watch the numbers please excuse any anomaly in the data as the website compiles and updates various airlines fleet numbers and fleet projection numbers.
These numbers should be compiled by the next couple of weeks. If you would like to contribute information to the project please let the website know.
As a blast from the past this article from the 1980's seemed instructive. As is evident in this article the industry has seen hiring waves many times over the previous decades. Matter of fact the retirement wave the airlines are beginning to experience is just the backside of a large hiring wave experienced in the 1980s. Also instructive is the number of pilots hired at the large airlines in 1985, many more then the website has forecast in the next few years at the top tier airlines.
Embarked on one of their biggest expansions ever, the nation's 14 major airlines are hiring pilots at a furious pace, a record 8,000 in 1985 alone. The dramatic increase in demand, spurred in large part by union concessions on starting salaries, has led to radical changes at airlines of all sizes in the way pilots are hired and trained. Hiring standards have been changed as the major carriers seek to broaden the base of potential candidates for their cockpits. In particular, the changes have been a boon to veteran pilots who were too old to join the major lines under traditional standards. For example, James K. Webster, a former Air Force pilot, was hired by United Airlines last June at the age of 44, many years after giving up on the idea.
Source: PILOT HIRING SURGES AT AIRLINES - NYTimes.com
This new report has been under development for the last year and a half as a partnership between KitDarby.com and AudriesAircraftAnalysis.com.
The report provides -
- An upgraded pilot flow model between Military, Part 91, Part 135 sectors and the U.S. 121 sector.
- Estimates of pilot draw to the Part 121 carriers in this report from the Military, Flight Training, Part 135 and Corporate Segments.
- An upgraded pilot flow model inside the U.S. 121 sector.
- A new training bubble calculation that estimates the impact changes in hiring have on pilot demand
- A new early out calculation that estimates the number of pilots who may leave the profession due to medical outs and/or other personal reasons.
- The National/LCC segment in the U.S. Part 121 sector. Estimates attrition from those carriers to Major/Destination carriers as well as attrition from the regional segment to the National/LCC segment.
- Estimates from 2015-2030.
Download the preview.
The report was last updated in April of 2015 and was intended for a spring release but due to technical difficulty had been postponed until now. The report is directed towards the consulting and business market as it provides a much improved model. The older/existing flow model used in the rest of the website still remains relevant but lacked in many ways when attempting to address the particular market that constituted the consulting and business community.
For those interested in purchasing access to this report through the consulting level of membership.
Republic Airways has been an excellent case when studying the importance of labor relations. The scenario we see today has been more than 8 years in the making and provides some valuable insight for other executive teams around the world and industry.
Some of these insights include
- The importance of finding common ground leading to timely agreements between employee groups and management.
- The importance of allowing the Railway Labor Act to fully function when there is an impasse between groups.
Before we delve into any of these points we need to first identify one important principle often overlooked in today's world by executive teams. Attitude and culture at a company are a reflection of leadership. Whenever an executive at a company points to a labor group as the source of the problem, or that the group has gone bad or funky they usually forget "When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself." Louis Nizer
The attachment of blame and the rationalization of reality usually results in executive teams who are unwilling to accept or look at the difficult and authentic roots of the problem. Usually this compounds the difficulties. While it is not the intent of this article to study all the various roots, some include being out of touch with the employee group, or the industry, misaligned priorities and many others. This article studies the effect of this breakdown.
The two insights are interrelated. The case study with Republic demonstrates the reality of another bank account not reflected in the Quarterly or Annual reports. In relationships this may be called the emotional bank account, or between the company and the public it may actually be reflected in SEC statements as good will. Unfortunately their is no "metric" to measure that good will between an executive team and a labor group, but it is nonetheless real and has the potential to greatly influence the bottom line for any company for better or worse.
Usually, when a contract expires before a new one has been agreed to and signed a running total of something intangible begins between the labor group and the company. The greater the expectations and the longer the time the larger that total gets. It is difficult to fully quantify this total, but it does begin to make sense when trying to understand why one labor group would agree to one contract while another would refuse a better one.
Incorporating this unmeasured good will between the company and the labor group does allow an outsider to make some sense in the relationship. Usually this translates into more expensive contracts. The longer the company and the employee group go without an agreement typically the higher the expectations and the more expensive the contract. In some cases a small majority may pass a contract that doesn't quite meet group expectations, but make no mistake the unpaid "balance" on the good will account between the employee group and company management still remain.
This "good will" can be seen in the culture at the company, and will come through in poor performance and higher operating costs.
The irony with some management teams strategies today is that they delay coming to an agreement, feeling that it is cheaper to operate with the old expired contract than agree to a more expensive one, so as in Republic's case they continue to make new flying contracts at the old employee price while still touting the same adage that they simply can't afford to agree to a more expensive employee contract. What they often overlook is that they are just transferring a balance and never truly avoiding it, and eventually the math simply catches up.
When a management team decides to delay a contract usually an impasse occurs. The Railway Labor Act has a defined process of how that is suppose to play out when this develops. For political or other reasons unknown to the writer of this article that process was not allowed to fully play out in Republic's case, further allowing this wound and impasse to fester. The fester accelerates the accumulation of bad will, since there is no other organized outlet for an employee group to channel their frustration. What many in the corporate world forget is that a labor Strike, similar to a divorce is very damaging to both sides but that unless their is an appropriate outlet to allow for some type of "self help" the relationship simply turns abusive with no incentive for a resolution from the abuser or the one who maintains the control (the executive team).
The analogy of a marriage relationship is used since in the aviation industry the ability for pilots to transfer laterally to other companies simply doesn't exist, and for better or worse a pilot will be tied to an airline. Similar to a marriage if they leave they will have to start out all over again. Even though the Railway labor act "self help" process appears destructive it can actually provide a cathartic outlet for an embattled group before a full dissolution occurs.
So what happens when the Railway labor act is stymied and the full process of negotiations is not allowed to play out?
Republic is the perfect example. When we had a large number of pilots looking for employment it was hard to see the effects of the breakdown in this relationship between Republic and their pilots, since many pilots were willing to pay or work for almost nothing to gain experience to have a shot of one day applying to the Major airlines. However, now that pilots have a choice of where they would like to go we can see the affects more perfectly.
- Individual pilots leave in larger numbers (attrition increases)
- Reliability goes down as employees are unmotivated to assist the company outside of their contractual obligations and costs rise. This is more pronounced when a company doesn't have access to as many employees.
- The ability to attract new pilots diminishes further compounding the problem.
The challenge now for Republic is that they have played this game for so long, and incurred such a high cost that they may not be able to catchup with there partners and their employees.
Republic management has painted their team and airline partners into a very precarious corner. The only options that remain aren't really good options, and it is doubtful that Chapter 11 will improve their ability to attract pilots.
The only way out that I can foresee would be a a restructuring of their partner contracts to allow them to pay for the large cost they have accumulated with their pilot group over the last 8 years. To maintain trust and ownership it will be crucial for them to develop this pilot contract closely with the pilot representative group.
There is a way forward for the Regional Airlines. Despite the unique problems they face because of the business model, there may be hope.
The push towards lower compensation at the regional airlines seems to have abated. Regional airlines are now offering some additional incentive besides rock bottom starting wages to attract pilots. Even Pinnacle/Endeavor the airline that started the free fall in compensation is offering large bonuses after these cuts in pay have dramatically affected their ability to attract pilots. Even though the bonuses are likely short term solutions to a long term problem it is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, because of the reduction in wages at some of the regional airlines they have stifled their supply for pilots just when they should have been nourishing it the most. Also, because the difficulty in attracting pilots has been most keenly felt at the regional airline level, the Legacy carriers who control the regional carriers schedules have not been well motivated to plan more efficient schedules which would have allowed the existing pilots to be more efficiently used.
Even though many of the airlines are behind this curve it is still not too late for airlines who are willing to plan ahead.
How to fix the regional airlines
Make them a career
For safety and financial reasons regional airlines should be motivated to create an airline where a good portion of their pilots can make it a career. The career may not be as good as it is at the legacy carriers but good enough to justify the investment made in a pilot's education.
A couple of reasons why
- It is expected that the next 20 years will be a period of continuous pilot movement and retaining a sizeable group of pilots to mentor new airline pilots will be important. Regardless of what anyone may say keeping a talent and experience base to nurture a culture of safety, maturity and stability is critical to the safety and reliable operation of an airline. Quality airlines are a by product of a culture developed and refined over many, many years. That culture is developed, protected and transmitted by flight ops teams, training departments and pilot groups that have in many cases spent decades learning from mistakes. The evolution that an airline goes through over time is difficult and expensive to rush.
- By keeping a significant number of pilots as career pilots, the number of training events required due to hiring is reduced. Airlines spend a considerable amount of money training new pilots. This is required because of the nature of flight operations, and aircraft differences inherent between aircraft. If very senior pilots leave, the domino effect in the number of training events required to back fill that pilot is greater than if a brand new pilot were to leave. While some movement is good and needed to refresh a pilot group each training event requires instructor, simulator, and additional line resources. Each of these resources are expensive.
To achieve a career it will take something different than just signing bonuses, which only bring pilots onto the property and do very little to retain pilots. It will take the same things seen at any other company that tries to keep career professionals. Some of these things include retirement, profit sharing, and benefits in conjunction with competitive compensation.
Develop a pipeline 2 years in advance
Regional airlines need to be looking to at least 2 years down the road to ensure they are cultivating their future staffing needs. If things are so unpredictable that they can't predict 2 years down the road then that regional has other fundamental problems that further threaten their stability.
Airlines would be wise to take candidates that meet their stringent requirements, and invest heavily in their education, or provide those flight students that already meet their criteria a way to gain the necessary experience to qualify for Part 121 flight operations. Enough is known about attributes that make good pilots that airlines could do this with a limited exposure to pilots who may wash out.
The key will be to have enough foresight to invest in their aviator pipeline before they experience the financial pain from not preparing.
It is true that many airlines still have not felt the financial pressure from pilot inefficiency necessary to relook at their route networks and schedules and then to tailor them with pilot utilization in mind. To often pilot utilization has been looked at as an after thought. Even though this may be one of the last things airlines may consider, it will be available as a way to better use the pilot resources they currently have nonetheless.