Airline Pilots Do not Need To Be Promoted To Captain, And It is A Drawback

It’s each pilot’s aim to earn their “4 stripes” and grow to be a captain, and that’s at the moment simpler than ever earlier than to safe. But regardless of the significantly better pay, some airways can’t really persuade sufficient individuals to take the improve from first officer to captain. What’s occurring right here?

The distinction between captains and first officers

For some primary context, airways at all times have not less than two pilots on a flight, together with one captain and one first officer (longer flights even have three or 4 pilots, relying on the size).

So, what’s the distinction between captains and first officers? They’ve the identical primary coaching, and are each completely certified to fly the aircraft. On a typical journey, the captain and first officer will alternate who’s “flying” on every section, with the opposite pilot offering help and dealing the radios.

The principle distinction is that the captain is in cost and has the ultimate say on issues, and will get paid considerably extra. There are another minor variations — for instance, captains will usually taxi the plane, and there are some difficult airports the place solely the captain can land the aircraft.

Typically when pilots begin at airways, they’re first officers. Then since airways use seniority methods for pilots, pilots can ultimately bid for an improve to captain. Changing into a captain requires taking a course that lasts a number of weeks, after which spending some exams.

The factor to bear in mind is that seniority is all relative, and everybody has completely different targets with their seniority. Seniority doesn’t simply affect whether or not you’re captain or first officer, but additionally impacts which plane you fly, the place you’re based mostly, and the extent to which you’ll select your schedule.

I’m completely making up this state of affairs, however let’s say you’ve got three American Airways pilots who’ve the identical seniority. They may have a number of completely different choices they will select from:

  • One pilot could desire to be a junior Boeing 737 captain; this particular person could be making probably the most cash, however might need to commute to a distinct base, and wouldn’t have a lot management over their schedule
  • One pilot could desire to be a senior Boeing 737 first officer; this particular person would be capable of fly out of their dwelling base, and have good management over their schedule, and may choose their days off
  • One pilot could desire to be a mid-seniority Boeing 787 first officer; this particular person would possibly like the approach to life of primarily with the ability to function lengthy haul flights, permitting them to take extra days off, and truly discover some enjoyable locations
Pilots can use their seniority in numerous methods

Why airways can’t get sufficient captains

Reuters has an interesting story about what number of pilots on the main US airways are avoiding the improve to captain, and it’s inflicting an issue for airways:

  • At United Airways, bids for roughly half of the captain vacancies have gone unfilled, which means United can’t discover sufficient first officers who wish to grow to be captains
  • At American Airways, greater than 7,000 pilots have chosen to not take the captain improve, and the variety of individuals declining the improve has not less than doubled up to now seven years

So whereas there’s an general pilot scarcity, the priority is that we’re quickly going to cope with a captain scarcity, whereby there are sufficient whole pilots, however not sufficient individuals who wish to grow to be captains.

Within the story, one business official dubs this as “nobody needs to be a junior captain syndrome.” One other 48-year-old first officer with three younger children explains that he might be a captain, however “if I did that, I might’ve ended up divorced and seeing my children each different weekend.”

The pilot contracts being negotiated at airways in the intervening time tackle some high quality of life points, which airways hope will assist with this downside. In case you’re curious concerning the pay distinction between captain and first officer, under are United Airways’ new hourly pilot pay charges, which pilots are actually voting on. As you may see, the pay variations are substantial.

United Airways’ new captain pay
United Airways’ new first officer pay

I commend a whole lot of the pilots who’re selecting high quality of life over cash, as a result of in the US it looks like all that so many individuals care about is cash. It’s good that individuals are keen to forgo cash for a happier life. It’s good to stay to work, fairly than work to stay.

This is the reason now we have a whole lot of very junior captains

I’ve written earlier than how we’re in a brand new period of younger mainline pilots. You’re seeing captains at mainline carriers of their mid-20s. Maybe even wilder, Delta has not less than one Boeing 767 captain in his mid-20s, who was in a position to bid to this place inside simply months of beginning on the airline. It’s fairly wild to go from briefly being a Boeing 717 first officer to being a Boeing 767 captain.

However that’s the period we stay in. I assume he doesn’t have a lot management over his schedule, although he definitely has a dream job, and is raking within the dough, quickly making $400K+ per yr! As you’d count on, a whole lot of the very younger captains at airways are single and don’t have children, so there’s not as a lot alternative value to this.

We’re now seeing Delta 767 captains of their mid-20s!

Backside line

Not solely does the airline business have a pilot scarcity, however we apparently now even have a captain scarcity. Many pilots are selecting high quality of life over cash, and would fairly be senior first officers who’ve management over their schedules than junior captains who don’t have a lot management over their schedules.

For many who are keen to be versatile, this creates an incredible alternative to get a captain promotion sooner than ever earlier than.

What do you make of the captain scarcity?

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