United Airlines CEO:

Kirby stated that personal travel has rebounded and leisure travel has “more than 100 percent recovered.”

The airline CEO also said he expects European travel to “come back largely in full” the moment that borders are fully reopened, while travel in Asia will likely take “18 to 24” months to fully recover.

Source: United CEO: My guess is airline mask mandate will expire in September | TheHill

Summary of the following

  • Airlines that are mostly domestic have begun recalling and hiring new pilots. They will enter a training and certification pipeline that gets them on revenue flights 5-9 months later. This process will be ongoing with new cohorts brought in from now through mid-2022.
  • Airlines that have many international routes may be re-staffing at slower rates. Their plans suggest they don’t see global international traffic resuming until mid-2022 to late 2023.

Pilot Hiring at US and EU Airlines

Most airlines have begun re-calling furloughed staff – some began those recalls early in 2021, some in the spring and some say their recalls will be ongoing out to the end of 2021.

Once recalled, pilots are scheduled into training cohorts – it is then 5 to 9 more months before they are flying revenue flights. (More on this here but some of their info is presented in a confusing way.)

Some airlines have begun hiring to replace pilots who chose early retirement and some that left the field during last year’s pandemic.

Full staffing for domestic flights will be coming back through early to mid-2022.

  • Airlines that are primarily “domestic” carriers in the U.S. and the EU (e.g. Ryanair) have plans to hire more pilots from now through 2023.
  • Carriers that do a lot of international routes – like Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, have announced that they are still laying off workers in 2021. Qantas, which flies international routes, has begun hiring a small number of pilot trainees for domestic fight positions.

My interpretation of this is airlines are prep’ing for resumption of robust domestic air travel well into 2022, but see international travel resuming over a longer period, out into 2023. Until international travel restrictions let up, global travel will remain subdued.

Delta Airlines previously said they did not expect to recover to 2019 levels until sometime in 2023. And some think it will be 2024 to 2025 before global air traffic is back to 2019 levels.

Business travel may be reduced for years to come as many companies may turn to video conferencing. Business travelers often paid premium ticket prices – and without their subsidy to leisure travelers, leisure travel may be priced higher too. Or, more airlines may adopt the “discount” model like RyanAir or Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant – where seats are cheap but using the bathroom may cost extra.

By EdwardM