In good news for pilots, Las Vegas-based Allegiant plans to boost its pilot numbers by 184 this northern summer. With nearly 1,000 pilots currently flying for Allegiant, that’s around a 19% increase.
“These new pilots will be a welcome addition to our current roster of exceptional flight crew members,” says Allegiant executive Tracy Tulle. “Their hiring really marks an exciting part of our five-year growth plan, which includes onboarding new pilots and flight attendants, as well as adding aircraft to our fleet, and new bases, cities, and routes to our network.”
Allegiant bounces back
Like airlines everywhere, Allegiant felt the pinch in 2020. In the second quarter of the year, capacity and departures were down about 50% from the same period in 2019. Mid-2020, Allegiant was warning pilots furloughs were inevitable. Tranches of federal funding helped saved the day regarding involuntary job losses. However, substantial numbers of Allegiant employees, pilots and otherwise, went onto extended periods of leave while Allegiant attempted to navigate the travel downturn.
But this year, Allegiant has come roaring back. “I could not be more bullish on our outlook,” said Allegiant’s President and CEO, Maurice Gallagher Jnr, in April. “Going forward, our full-year, 2021 capacity should exceed 2019 capacity levels.
“We would not be in the favorable position we are today without the continued efforts of the 4,000 employees throughout our network. Their hard work has been integral to successfully navigate the most difficult year in the industry’s history.”
More flights mean more work for pilots
The rebound in passenger demand across the United States is driven by the leisure and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) segments. These are the types of passengers Allegiant’s low-cost business model has traditionally targeted. That has put Allegiant in a good position to benefit from the rebound.
Across March, Allegiant flew slightly fewer passengers than it did in March 2019 – 1,095,572 in March 2021 versus 1,484,326 in March 2019. But Allegiant flew more flights this March than it did in March 2019 – 11,710 departures against 10,297 departures in March 2019.
That means load factors in March 2021 were much lower than in March 2019, but from a pilot’s perspective, more Allegiant flights taking off means more work. Allegiant says they were the first domestic airline to restore flight numbers to 2019 levels. The airline says the first intake of new pilots will be in July, with further intakes continuing through to 2022.
Allegiant’s business models make the airline an employer of choice
According to Geir Bjoran, Allegiant’s chief pilot, the airline’s out-and-back business model is unique in the industry. The airline operates an all-Airbus fleet of A319s and A320s, flying more than 580 routes to 129 cities. The aircraft are assigned to one of the airline’s 20 bases across the United States, where pilots and other crew members live.
“Because our flights are point-to-point, with no layovers or connecting flights, our crew members end most workdays back at their home base,” says Geir Bjoran. The chief pilot argues getting back home most nights, combined with decent salaries, makes flying for Allegiant a career sweet spot for many pilots.
Allegiant is not the only United States-based airline keen to increase its pilot numbers. The big United States carriers, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines are all busy rehiring pilots. The trend is extending through the industry to smaller operators and low-cost airlines like Allegiant.