HONOLULU (KHON2) — A pilot shortage is impacting the islands.
Monday Sun Country Airlines announced it’s canceling service to the state because they don’t have enough people to fly.
It’s not the only airline cutting back. In the last couple of weeks both Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines have had to cancel flights because of a shortage of pilots.
Now Hawaiian Airlines said they’re hiring aggressively while Southwest said they’re looking to add 1,000 pilots in 2022.
“The pilot shortage, the needs, the demand that you’ve been seeing is real,” George’s Aviation CEO George Hanzawa said. “Hawaiian Airlines and all of these major airlines are looking for pilots. They pay them very, very well.”
That handsome pay from Hawaiian now comes with a $10,000 sign-on bonus and first-year pay of $81 an hour for first officers who join this month. The career is still producing plenty of applicants to flight schools.
“Post COVID we had a waitlist of over 100 students wanting to learn how to fly,” Hanzawa said.
The shortage begins with pilots forced to retire at age 65, an age that the baby boomer population is now reaching. Another issue is the military is producing fewer pilots because of drones.
“With that, it puts the demand on private schools like us or colleges,” Hanzawa said.
George’s now has some openings available, but Hanzawa said prices to attend have climbed as aviation fuel has climbed to $10 per gallon. Parts for repairs have become expensive or impossible to get.
He added that a dedicated student could get to an airline in about five years depending on study habits, with a year in a half to get ratings, becoming an instructor for a year, at a regional for two years, and then eligible to come back and work for a major airline.
That on top of the cost of $80,000 to $100,000 to get the necessary training and flight time to go from Cessnas to jets could be keeping those without funds to get into the business.
Hanzawa hopes that a reduction in prices could lead to more opportunities.
For now, Alaska, Hawaiian, and Southwest don’t anticipate any more cancellations.
Hanzawa said many in the industry are projecting this to be a long-term problem.
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“I could say right now this bubble that we have right now that we’re trying to feed the airlines with qualified pilots it’s here to stay for at least five to 10 years. I’m sure,” Hanzawa said.