American Airlines’ largest regional carrier, Envoy Air, announced it would offer pilots triple pay to support so-called “critical flights” in July.
The news comes shortly after Envoy and American’s other regional subsidiaries Piedmont and PSA previously announced wage increases and a 50% flight bonus for pilots through August 2024 to address the shortage of airline pilots. The triple salary bonus is also offered to pilots in Piedmont.
The two announcements come as airlines and travelers continue to deal with flight delays caused by airline staffing shortages. The news also comes just before the July 4 long weekend, which aviation analysts say could be the busiest flying days this year in the United States.
The shortage of pilots
Despite strong demand from travelers, American — but most other carriers as well — has cut flights to deal with pilot and flight crew shortages.
Pilots from multiple carriers say that despite pilot shortages, airlines have scheduled too many flights for the summer months in response to high demand and high prices, according to the Dallas Morning News. Unsurprisingly, American and Southwest pilots reported a significant increase in fatigue calls, which is what pilots do when they think they’re too tired to complete a trip requested by the airline.
“Airlines have built the buffer to the max and there are issues when things don’t go perfectly,” Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, told the Dallas Morning News.
Regional airlines in particular are grappling with continued pilot shortages as large numbers of commercial airline pilots retire, and thousands more have taken early retirement packages during the COVID-19 pandemic. . To compound the problem, when major airlines like American or United need pilots, they hire from regional carriers, which serve as a pilot supply program of sorts.
Indeed, although Envoy employs more than 2,500 pilots, the airline expects to lose up to 300 pilots this year as it switches to American Airlines to address its pilot shortage.
The salary increase for pilots
Envoy Air is offering pilots triple pay for flying for most of July, which the airline says will help it avoid flight disruptions during the peak summer travel season.
“Super critical coverage was declared” from July 2-31, says a memo sent to Envoy pilots earlier this week, according to CNBC. “Any open time completed during this period will be paid 300%. Thank you in advance for your assistance.”
In a statement, Envoy added that “this will only be offered if there are open trips available, and currently Envoy is fully covered by its flight schedule this summer,” CNBC reports.
Ric Wilson, Envoy’s vice president of flight operations, said the carrier regularly uses premiums during peak periods and holiday weekends, so the move is not unusual. He also said Envoy does not expect any pilot shortages in July.
“We’re in our peak flying season and we want to make sure we can operate reliably for our customers,” Wilson said, according to CNBC.
It’s worth pointing out that the 300% pay rate is only for “time off,” when pilots aren’t regularly scheduled to fly.
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