United Airlines to Recall 600 Furloughed Pilots to Address Labor Shortage

Skift Take

This major re-hire highlights airlines’ economic recovery, but also hints at a coming dilemma as airlines will struggle to find qualified pilots among a generation strongly discouraged from pursuing that career.

— Eliza Ronalds-Hannon

United Airlines plans to recall all of the nearly 600 pilots it has been keeping on furlough, the company announced Thursday.

The decision, which United made to address the airline’s staffing shortage, comes amid speculation that a major in-air talent gap will confront airlines over the next calendar year or two. As we reported last week, United also plans a pilot-recruitment drive for 2014.

The pilots in question were mostly furloughed during the recession, though many have been waiting since shortly after the September 11th attacks. On furlough, the pilots maintain a status similar to being laid off, the difference being the airline’s promise that they will be hired back, in order of seniority, if financial conditions improve.

Now that they have, hundreds of pilots will return to work after waiting and being unable to put their years of experience and training to any use.

“We look forward to welcoming back our co-workers as we complete work to integrate all of our pilots into a single work group,” said Howard Attarian, United’s senior vice president of Flight Operations.

Training classes for the recalled pilots will begin next month.

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