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Airlines Substitute Buses for Planes as Pilot Shortage Persists

  • Carriers are cutting flights, subbing buses for idled jets
  • Industry seen needing 14,500 pilots a year through 2030
Members of the Air Line Pilots Association picket outside Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 10, 2022.
Members of the Air Line Pilots Association picket outside Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 10, 2022.Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg
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U.S. airlines are facing a pilot shortage that’s complicating efforts to ramp up flights, forcing them to step up training programs, recruit foreign pilots and even replace planes with buses. 

The industry needs to hire an average of 14,500 new pilots each year until 2030, according to federal labor statistics. But carriers say there’s no way they can bring on that many due to long lag times for credentialing. Worse, experts say the staffing bottleneck is unlikely to end anytime soon.