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American is the latest major U.S. carrier to pause hiring new pilots. The carrier is facing a weaker financial outlook for the second quarter and is moderating its growth for the year.

American Airlines is pausing pilot hiring as it reevaluates its growth plans for the year. The carrier said it would temporarily pause new pilot hiring in September, October and November. 

The decision doesn’t affect current pilots but some pilots who had received conditional offers will not be joining until after the pause is lifted. 

“This decision allows us to optimize our capacity and tailor our talent growth plans to best serve the current needs of our airline,” American said in a statement. 

These changes come as American is looking to revamp its commercial strategy after trailing behind its competitors and facing declining revenues. Vasu Raja, the carrier’s former chief commercial officer, left the company earlier in June. 

He heavily championed controversial direct selling changes to American’s ticket distribution channels that ultimately drove away corporate bookings. In particular, American wanted to let flyers earn miles only when they booked tickets directly on its website or through preferred online travel agencies. Now, American is walking back that strategy.

“We’re not doing that because it would create confusion and disruption for our end customer, and we’re going to make sure that we take care,” said CEO Robert Isom at the Bernstein Investor Conference May 29. “We’re listening to feedback.”

On May 28, the carrier cut its financial outlook for the second quarter, expecting adjusted earnings of $1 to $1.15 a share, down from $1.15 to $1.45 a share. 

Major U.S. Airlines Put Pilot Hiring on Pause

American is the latest major carrier to pause pilot hiring. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines had temporarily halted hiring new pilots due to ongoing Boeing delivery delays. Delta Air Lines said it would hire fewer pilots in 2024 due to reaching a “normalized growth pattern.”

Initially, airlines were hiring pilots in droves post-pandemic as they struggled to fill a severe pilot shortage. Pilots were able to score record contracts, with some receiving raises as high as 50%. But now as the industry moves past the shortage, higher labor costs, inflation and aircraft delivery delays are causing airlines to reevaluate their hiring plans. 

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan said part of the reason it was looking to pause pilot hiring was to cut costs. 

“This is not business as usual,” Jordan said at the JPMorgan Industrials Conference March 12. “We’re being very aggressive in controlling what we can control despite the fact that some of these changes are very recent.”

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: american airlines, delta air lines, pilot shortage, robert isom, southwest airlines, united airlines

Photo credit: An American Airlines Boeing 787. Wikimedia Commons/Jakkrit Prasertwit Wikimedia Commons/Jakkrit Prasertwit / Wikimedia Commons/Jakkrit Prasertwit

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