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Asia's Travel Boom Is in Trouble as a Pilot Shortage Worsens

  • Dearth of skilled cockpit crew acute in India, Southeast Asia
  • Harder for newer airlines to hire pilots, CAPA’s Harbison says
Passengers disembark a Bamboo Airways airplane at Phu Cat Airport in Qui Nhon, Vietnam.
Passengers disembark a Bamboo Airways airplane at Phu Cat Airport in Qui Nhon, Vietnam.Photographer: Maika Elan/Bloomberg
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An unprecedented travel boom in Asia has spawned new budget carriers and millions of first-time fliers, but a shortage of pilots is threatening to choke that demand.

Bamboo Airways Co. in Vietnam was the latest low-cost carrier to start services this year and more are expected to join the race. In Southeast Asia alone, low cost carriers have about 1,400 aircraft on order, compared with fewer than 400 for full-service carriers, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation. With the supply of pilots lagging behind, the airlines will struggle to find skilled cockpit crew.