US Airlines Pilot Shortage Attracting Foreign Pilots

US pilot shortage continues to worsen and this has pushed US airlines to hire more foreign pilots – poaching them from airlines in the country and luring them with higher salaries and bonuses. From a point of view of some foreign pilots, such circumstance is an opportunity for them to pursue their dreams working in major US airlines. U.S. immigration lawyers report a surge in inquiries and visa applications from pilots based in countries where traffic is still recovering from pandemic lows.

The pilot shortage is causing the continuing cancellation and reduction of flights in the US. Airports, especially regional ones, are seeing decrease in passenger capacity because airlines have cut, if not limited, flights. The demand is through the roof and airlines are desperate to hire more pilots and as fast as it could. For example, American Airlines announced plans to hire 2,000 pilots this year. Others are offering sign in bonuses for long overdue first officers – US Regional Airline Offers $80,000 in Bonuses for Direct Entry Captain.

A widening supply-demand gap had created an unprecedented opportunity for experienced foreign pilots, said Ana Barbara Schaffert, lawyer at California-based AG Immigration Group, as cited in an Analysis Article of Reuters.

“While the US has a major shortage, in the rest of the world pilots are out of jobs,” she emphasized.

“She has received more than 8,000 requests for consultation in recent months, and is screening over 2,000 resumes from pilots seeking to immigrate to the United States – up more than 90% from before COVID-19,” according to Reuters.

Further, American Airlines Group, in April, told investors the pilot attrition rate at its regional carriers was outpacing the hiring rate and that draws interest from pilots in Canada, Europe, Africa, and Asia where traffic is still recovering, said Carmen Arce, an attorney at Florida-based Arce Immigration Law as cited by Reuters.

Interesting to note is that the Federal Aviation Administration says the number of foreign-licensed pilots seeking U.S. certificates required to fly large jets increased to 718 in 2021, up about 24% from 2019.

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