The Global Pilot Shortage Has Now Become A Surplus

The shortage of pilots was one of the biggest concerns in the global aviation industry until the start of this year. However, the impact of coronavirus on the airline industry has turned this deficit into a surplus. With airlines struggling to survive, even experienced pilots are losing jobs. It is expected that the global airline industry might not recover until at least 2023. If this happens, this might prove to be unfortunate for students who were aspiring to be a pilot in the coming years.

Malaysia Airlines grounded
Fewer planes mean fewer pilots. Demand for pilots might not exist for the next few years.
Photo: Getty Images

Many major airlines around the world have been furloughing pilots in the past few weeks. Delta Airlines, Qantas, and Germany’s Lufthansa have all forecasted that their workforce will gradually keep decreasing until recovery occurs. Similarly, EasyJet had announced that it had instigated a recruitment freeze due to the pandemic impact.

Suddenly, the tables have turned

Flying had been one of the most in-demand professions for the last few years. Airlines had been facing severe pilot shortages at a time when the global airline fleet was increasing day by day. This generated massive losses as airlines were incapable of maximizing aircraft utilization. The inadequacy of pilots had even forced airlines to pay large bonuses to attract more applications.

Qantas, for example, had faced severe consequences as its workforce was not sufficient for its existing fleet. As a result of this, it had decided to open its second pilot training school. However, Qantas had recently announced that due to the current situation, it wouldn’t be going ahead with the plan.

Qantas faced a severe pilot shortage. Photo: Getty Images.

Flying is a dream profession for millions of people worldwide. The incentives and perks related to this profession have, for a long time, established its status as one of the best jobs in the world. It is really high paying and at the same time, really fun too. However, it can only be achieved if you have money.

Pilot training is short but very expensive. It requires a lot of financial investment in various licenses, specifically Private pilot license (PPL), Commercial pilot license (CPL), and aircraft type rating. For example, an 18-month long training can cost a prospective student £109,000 ($136,000) in the UK.

Southwest pilots
Flying is rewarding but requires a lot of investment. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The current situation has put a lot of stress on the students who were planning to become a pilot in the next few years. It is improbable that passenger demand will recover for the next two years. Even if it does, it will be gradual, minimized, and airlines will only want to hire those pilots who have more experience. Consequently, cadet pilots and other aspiring students might have to think about an alternative career.


Although the situation is bleak, there are few positive signs. The average pilot age in various countries like the United States is relatively high. It is expected that almost 5,000 pilots in the US will retire in the next two years. Younger pilots might then be able to fill in the vacancy and hope for a positive change in the industry.

Is it a good idea to become a pilot in the next few years? Let us know in the comments.