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Airlines are in a hiring frenzy as summer travel season nears

Samantha Fields May 8, 2023
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Airlines are hiring for nearly all positions in order to meet consumers' pent-up demand for travel. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Airlines are in a hiring frenzy as summer travel season nears

Samantha Fields May 8, 2023
Heard on:
Airlines are hiring for nearly all positions in order to meet consumers' pent-up demand for travel. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The official start of the summer travel season is less than three weeks away, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a busy one.

​United Airlines says it’s expecting about 12% more passengers this Memorial Day than last, and more than it had in 2019. Meanwhile, Delta execs said on the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call that three-quarters of the seats on its international flights for the summer are already booked — and that was a few weeks ago.

​Airlines have been doing a lot of hiring to get ready; summer is always one of the busiest times of the year for air travel.

“It’s right up there with some of the other busier travel seasons, like Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Andrew Pierini, the chief commercial officer at Tulsa International Airport. But it lasts a whole lot longer than the holidays — “a couple months of demand versus those one or two weeks out of the year.”

Last summer, airlines were not prepared for just how desperate people were to travel, and most didn’t have enough staff to meet the huge demand.

So to get ready for this year, Mike Stengel at Aerodynamic Advisory said that airlines have been hiring for all kinds of positions: “Flight attendants, pilots, the ground staff, all your reservation agents that you talk to on the phone when you’re booking tickets.”

And heading into this summer travel season, “when you look at U.S. airlines, their total employment is actually above pre-COVID levels,” Stengel said.

Even so, airlines are still actively looking to hire for nearly all positions.

One position, in particular, is in high demand: “[Airlines] would like to get even more pilots in place to operate the aircraft they have and the aircraft they expect to have and to account for pilots who are retiring,” said Henry Harteveldt at Atmosphere Research Group.

United said it hired more pilots last year than ever before — more than 2,300 — but it still needs more. The company is also hiring more technicians, more flight attendants, more reservation and gate agents, and all sorts of corporate jobs.

That’s the case for most airlines, Harteveldt said. “There’s probably never been a better time to start an airline career. Salaries are up, hourly wages are up, benefits are better.”

Plus, a lot of these jobs have the potential to turn into good, long-term careers, he said.

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