American Airlines’ largest regional carrier, Envoy Air, has announced it will offer pilots triple pay to pick up what’s called “critical flights” during July.
The news comes shortly after Envoy and American’s other regional subsidiaries, Piedmont and PSA, previously announced pay increases and a 50 percent flying bonus for pilots through August 2024 to address the airline’s pilot shortage. The triple-pay bonus is also being offered to pilots at Piedmont.
Both announcements come as airlines and travelers alike continue to face flight delays caused by airline staffing shortages. The news also comes just ahead of the long Fourth of July weekend, which aviation analysts say could be the busiest flying days of this year in the U.S.
The Pilot Shortage
Despite high demand from travelers, American — but most other carriers as well — has been trimming flights to address the pilot and flight crew shortage.
Pilots at several carriers say that in spite of the pilot shortage, airlines have planned too many flights for the summer months in response to strong demand and high prices, according to the Dallas Morning News. Not surprisingly, pilots at American and Southwest have reported a significant increase in fatigue calls, which is what pilots do when they believe they are too tired to fly a trip requested by the airline.
“Airlines have built the buffer right to the max and there are problems when everything doesn’t go perfectly,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Regional airlines in particular struggle with the ongoing pilot shortage because a large number of commercial airline pilots are retiring, plus thousands more took early retirement packages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compounding the problem, when mainline airlines such as American or United need pilots, they hire from regional carriers, which serve as a pilot feeder program of sorts.
Indeed, although Envoy employs more than 2,500 pilots, the airline expects to lose up to 300 pilots this year as they move up to American Airlines to address its pilot shortage.
The Pilots’ Pay Raise
Envoy Air is offering pilots triple pay to pick up trips for most of July, which the airline says will help it avoid flight disruptions during the peak summer travel season.
“Super critical coverage has been declared” for July 2 to 31, explains a note sent to Envoy pilots earlier this week, according to CNBC. “Any open time flown during this time frame will be paid at 300 percent. Thank you in advance for your help.”
In a statement, Envoy went on to add that “This will only be offered if there are open trips 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 carrier regularly uses bonus pay during busy stretches and holiday weekends, so the move isn’t unusual. He also said Envoy doesn’t expect any shortages of pilots in July.
“We are into our peak flying season, and we want to ensure that we can operate dependably for our customers,” Wilson said, according to CNBC.
It should be emphasized that the 300 percent pay rate is only for “open time,” when pilots are not regularly scheduled to fly.
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