Delta’s pilot hiring plans for 2024 show that the airline industry’s post-pandemic hiring surge may be coming to an end.
Delta Air Lines said it plans to hire far fewer pilots in 2024 than in recent years, signaling a potential end to the airline industry’s post-pandemic hiring surge.
Delta said it will hire a little over 1,000 pilots in 2024, roughly half the amount it hired in 2023. Since the pandemic, airlines have hired tens of thousands of pilots to keep up with high travel demand and make up for an ongoing pilot shortage.
In 2022, the industry hired roughly 13,000 pilots and was on track to hire roughly the same number in 2023, according to FAPA.aero, a pilot hiring advisory service.
“Delta’s 2024 hiring projections are representative of a continued healthy and robust demand for pilots,” a Delta spokesperson said in a statement. “What we anticipate for the coming year is a very strong, yet more normalized, growth pattern that is reflective of Delta’s full operational restoration post-pandemic and continued focus on industry leadership.”
Delta also said that a major airline hiring over 1,000 pilots was still a high number and that hiring patterns in the industry had been unusual since the pandemic. The carrier noted that such hiring couldn’t continue indefinitely.
Airlines had been hiring pilots in droves to deal with a severe pilot shortage. Smaller cities that depend on regional airlines have been hit the hardest by the shortage as the larger airlines have snatched up pilots, offering higher pay and better career opportunities.
Pilots have been able to score record contracts, with some receiving raises as high as 50%.
Combined with significant pay increases and increased recruitment efforts, it appears as if the airline industry is now past the worst of the pilot shortage.
“Thanks to rising salaries, faster career paths, and greater awareness of the need for pilots, the number of candidates pursuing certification to fly commercially is rising,” according to an Oliver Wyman report.
While other large U.S. airlines have yet to release their hiring figures for 2024, there are signs that airlines are slowing down hiring. Spirit Airlines, for example, decided to halt its new pilot and flight attendant training because it is planning for slower growth amid softening demand for domestic travel.