Attention, Pilots: Commercial Airlines Need You as Air Travel Surges

Attention, Pilots: Commercial Airlines Need You as Air Travel Surges
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Are you a military aviator or a retired aviator looking to transition into the commercial airline industry? Now might be the time to apply!


The COVID-19 pandemic virtually halted the airline industry in 2020. With mandated lockdowns and travel restrictions throughout the year, airlines imposed hiring freezes and slashed payrolls through early retirement and voluntary leave offers.


The increased rate of pilots either retiring or taking leave, combined with a lack of recruitment, has left tens of thousands of unfilled pilot positions within the industry. And with vaccination rates increasing, the demand for air travel is increasing.


United Airlines is prepared to hire roughly 300 pilots in the next year as travel demands rise, according to a Reuters report. There will be an estimated 12,000 unfilled pilot jobs by 2023, and Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE), a Canadian aerospace manufacturing firm, predicts the airline industry will require more than 260,000 new pilots over the next decade.


[RELATED: Air Force Quietly Ends Program Allowing Retired Pilots to Return to Service]


Although these are long-term predictions, airlines are starting to act now. Oliver Wyman, a New York-based consulting firm, predicts airlines will be restocking their pilots within the next six to 12 months. And with an aging workforce, it is likely this mass hiring campaign will not slow down: A mandatory retirement age of 65 means major airlines are looking at 40% of their pilot workforce retiring within the next five years.


This supply shortage of pilots is going to lead to a surge of recruitment efforts by major airlines. If you have thought about or are currently seeking to continue a pilot career in the private sector, now might be the best time to transition.


How MOAA Can Help

The hiring process can be complicated and lengthy, but MOAA’s career transition services can help you navigate it. MOAA offers tools and resources for transitioning servicemembers to leverage the skills/attributes acquired from military experience directly into the private sector.


MOAA's Military Executive Transition (MET) program is one such resource. The one-day seminar is dedicated to helping servicemembers find success in the civilian workforce, including those seeking a career in civilian aviation.  


Be sure to visit MOAA's Job Board to find careers in the airline industry which are the right fit for you. Enter keywords such as "aircraft maintenance technician," "airline pilot," or "aviation specialist" in the search box, and further narrow and refine the list by adding a preferred location, job type, full or part time status, and more.


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About the Author

Joseph Elliott
Joseph Elliott

Elliott is native of California. He earned his bachelor's degree in International Service from American University. Before joining the MOAA team as a member service representative, he worked for the International Volunteer Leadership Program with the State Department.