American Airlines’ largest regional carrier, Envoy Air, has announced that it will pay pilots three times in July for pick-ups on so-called “critical flights.”
The news comes shortly after Envoy and American’s other regional subsidiaries, Piedmont and PSA, previously announced pay increases and a 50 percent flight bonus for pilots through August 2024 to address the airline’s pilot shortage. The triple-pay bonus is also offered to pilots in Piedmont.
Both announcements come as airlines and travelers continue to experience delays due to airline staff shortages. The news also comes just before the July 4 long weekend, which could be the busiest flying days in the US this year, according to aviation analysts.
The shortage of pilots
Despite high demand from travelers, American — as well as most other airlines — has cut flights to address the shortage of pilots and flight crews.
Pilots at several airlines say that despite the pilot shortage, airlines have scheduled too many flights for the summer months in response to strong demand and high prices, according to the Dallas Morning News. Not surprisingly, American and Southwest pilots have reported a significant increase in fatigue reports, which is what pilots do when they feel they are too tired to fly an airline-requested trip.
“Airlines have pushed the buffer to the limit, and there are problems when things don’t go perfectly,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Regional airlines, in particular, are grappling with the ongoing pilot shortage as a large number of commercial airline pilots retire, and thousands more have taken early retirement packages amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Adding to the problem, when major airlines like American or United need pilots, they hire regional airlines, which serve as a sort of pilot-feeder program.
Although Envoy employs more than 2,500 pilots, the airline expects to lose up to 300 pilots this year if it switches to American Airlines to address the pilot shortage.
The pay rise of the pilots
Envoy Air is offering pilots a triple fee for travel pick-up for most of July, which the airline says will help avoid flight disruptions during peak summer seasons.
“Super-critical reporting has been declared” for July 2 to 31, a note sent to the envoy’s pilots earlier this week states, according to CNBC. “Any open time flown during this period will be paid at 300 percent. Thanks in advance for your help.”
In a statement, Envoy added, “This will only be offered when open travel is available, and currently Envoy is fully covered with its flight schedule this summer,” CNBC reports.
Ric Wilson, Envoy’s vice president of flight operations, said the airline regularly uses bonus money during busy routes and holiday weekends, so the move isn’t unusual. He also said the envoy does not expect any pilot shortages in July.
“We are in our peak season and we want to make sure we can operate reliably for our customers,” Wilson said, according to CNBC.
It should be emphasized that the 300 percent payout percentage only applies to “open time”, when pilots do not fly regularly.
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