The United States has been grappling with a pilot shortage that shows no signs of reversing course, however instead of attempting to remedy the situation, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been focused on increasing diversity and preventing captains from working longer.
Experts have warned that unless drastic measures are taken, the airline industry will continue to suffer, leading to increased delays, cancellations, and stress for consumers.
In July, Buttigieg visited the Fly Compton Aeronautical Education Foundation, which works to inspire and train children in minority communities to become part of the next generation of pilots.
He suggested that it's "important to make sure there is an inclusive future," adding that, "a field like aviation is worse off if you have people who could have been great pilots … but never even knew that was an option for them."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, currently 93 percent of pilots and flight engineers are white, 6 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are black, and 1.5 percent are Asian.
Among the ideas floated to ensure there are enough pilots was to raise the age of retirement to 67. They are currently required to retire at 65.
Despite the fact that there was support for a policy shift, as the Daily Mail reports, Buttigieg remained adamant that pilots would have to retire at 65. "The United States of America should be able to have a robust aviation system without watering down our expectations on safety," he argued, suggesting that "raising the bar on things like compensation and job quality" were more viable solutions.
Buttigieg has faced criticism from across the political spectrum, including from members of his own party. Following a particularly disastrous Memorial Day weekend, even Sen. Bernie Sanders went after the transportation secretary, calling on him to do more to solve the problem.
"If you institute racial quotas for future pilots while forcing your current pilots to retire...surprise! You'll get a pilot shortage," John Hasson quipped.
An analysis conducted by Oliver Wyman shows that if trends continue, North America will have a pilot deficit of nearly 20,000 by 2032.
Airlines, for their part, have been desperately trying to fill cockpits, offering huge signing bonuses and other incentives for prospective pilots.
OW partner Geoff Murray warned that, "absent a downturn in future demand and industry efforts to bolster the supply of pilots, travelers should anticipate continued near-term cancellations and delays until airlines are better able to accommodate traffic with scaled-back flight schedules."
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