A pilot explains why air travel has become so stressful

A pilot explains why air travel has become so stressful. By Teresa Mull.

A pilot I spoke to emphasized ongoing airline staffing shortages as the biggest headache at the airport.

He told me that heading into 2019, airlines were facing the biggest pilot shortage in history. Then, during the height of the Covid outbreak, travel fell off by upwards of 90 percent, and to cut costs, airlines offered senior pilots early retirement. Normal pilot training was also suspended in many places.

Travel has bounced back big time, but seasoned pilots, according to the terms of their union contracts, can never get their seniority back. Clearly, being at the bottom of the food chain and making base pay again is not going to induce these pilots to come out of retirement. …

According to the pilot I spoke to, this “perfect storm” of mass retirements, fewer people wanting to work, and work restrictions amounts to “musical chairs” when it comes to staffing planes.

My pilot friend tells me he enjoys his work; he shows up and does his job with minimal hand-holding. He humbly leaves out the hours of training and certifications it took to get him where he is — not to mention the responsibility, cool-under-pressure smarts, and Right Stuff that are required. Nonetheless, with training incentives, sign-on bonuses, and significant wage increases now being offered, he says it’s a great time to fly the friendly skies.

So why aren’t more people lining up to pursue this rewarding, well-paying career with a high projected growth rate?

“The labor force is shrinking,” CBS News reported last month. …

It seems no one is willing to admit the obvious when it comes to why fewer people are working …

The pilot shortage situation is reaching crisis levels, and solutions of all sorts have been proposed: offer more pay and signing bonuses, reduce the number of required training hours, raise the required retirement age from 65 to 67, offer low-interest loans and financial incentives for flight school, recruit more women of color. Yet how sustainable are all these gimmicks and why are they necessary? Why must Americans essentially be bribed to do a job that has traditionally been considered stressful and challenging, yes, but also high-profile, glamorous, exciting, rewarding, and interesting? …

The pilot and ATC crunch is intertwined with the military, which is also facing severe shortages. [Jeff] Groom cites waning patriotic sentiment and the woke culture war as two interconnected reasons for low military recruitment.

It’s likely these are the same reasons why airlines can’t recruit pilots, and companies everywhere in many industries can’t find workers. Whereas the traditional American mindset has been “I am obliged to contribute to society and perform my duties for the betterment of my family and my country,” the essence of modern, woke culture is that everyone is a victim and deserving of special treatment. Sacrifice, labor, and pride of work have largely been replaced by an attitude of entitlement, as we see new privileged classes emerge daily, and young people, thanks to detrimental government policies, have no incentive to work … — let alone commit to something prestigious and venturesome like becoming a pilot.

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