The labor market for airline pilots is going through some unexpected turbulence. Recently WSJ reported that a combination of boomer retirements and new training requirements (1500 hours of flight experience compared to 250 originally) were causing some regional airlines to drop their least profitable flights. Aspiring pilots can amass tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get the flight time needed to meet the training requirements. So why do they do this, especially since regional airline pilots earn an average salary of $22,400 and some earn only about $15k?
The answer -- eventually the pilots hope to land a position with a major carrier that pays well into six figures. That is why they are willing to accept positions that barely pay more than the current minimum wage (and would be below the aspirational minimum wage of the Obama administration). My expectation: expect to see salaries for regional pilots increase as always happens when there is a shortage and markets are allowed to operate.
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