- Breeze Airways is one of many airlines bracing for the global pilot shortage as air travel intensifies.
- The startup airline is looking to fill around 280 open pilot positions as more planes are delivered.
- Hourly wages for pilots are increased and Australian nationals can also fly for Breeze under the E-3 visa program.
The airline industry is returning to normal, which once again means facing a global pilot shortage.
Airlines have moved quickly to improve their pilot numbers, but hiring for many airlines has restarted and for others it has never ended. Regional airlines and new startups in particular have felt the tightening.
Breeze Airways, the start-up airline launched by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, has regularly hired pilots throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is expanding its efforts as it expands its aircraft fleet.
About 280 pilot positions need to be filled for Breeze’s Embraer E190, Embraer E195 and Airbus A220 planes, and the airline is working hard to attract talent.
A higher salary for all pilots
Breeze increases pilot pay with new pay scales for pilots taking effect in January.
The pay scales on each aircraft are different, with Airbus pilots earning slightly more than their Embraer counterparts given the aircraft’s “ability to generate additional income”, Christopher Owens, vice president of operations, told Insider. breeze aerials.
The first-year salary for A220 first officers is $ 68 per flight hour, up $ 13, while the first-year salary for Embraer first officers is $ 61, up $ 6.
“The reason was the overwhelming feedback we received from the pilots,” Owens. “Their top three priorities were: rates of pay, rates of pay and rates of pay. “
Embraer’s pilots do what is known as round trips which will see them return to their home base each night. Airbus pilots will help integrate Breeze’s A220-300 fleet later this year and perform longer flights and multi-day trips comparable to traditional airline pilots.
Alternative solutions to the pilot shortage
Australian pilots will be able to work as Breeze pilots under the E-3 work visa program in a little used but not unprecedented solution to the pilot shortage. Qualified Australian nationals can apply to work legally in the United States, and regional airlines including CommutAir and ExpressJet Airlines have used the program to recruit pilots in the country.
“This is an opportunity to give good jobs to hard working, well qualified people who want to live in the United States.” [and] want to be a pilot for an American airline, ”Owens said.
Breeze already has around 120 applicants for the program, with the majority of pilots living in Australia and some already in the United States. Down Under pilots will, however, need to incur travel and visa costs before they can fly to Breeze.
Other solutions include establishing a pipeline program with a major US flight school and Breeze can also join United Airlines to launch an ab initio program for future pilots with no flight time.
Breeze is also looking for airline pilots who retired during the pandemic but still have a few years before they reach the Federal Aviation Administration’s mandatory retirement age of 65. of experience, ”said Owens.
Get rid of a reputation for low pay
The labor shortage also has a way of holding airlines accountable, as pilots may look for opportunities elsewhere as airlines across the country have raised wages and lowered requirements to ensure a constant supply. .
“We’ve been operating for seven months and we just can’t be as competitive as the drivers would like us to be right now,” said Owens. “Pilots just need a little patience, to see the forest through the trees and see Breeze for what it can be.”