United Airlines Hits Back At Pilot Training Diversity Criticism

Yesterday, United Airlines shared that it has pledged $1.2 million in scholarship fees to ensure its pilot training school is more diverse. Overall, the United Aviate Academy will train 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with the goal to have at least 50% of the new students be women or people of color. However, this announcement was met with a mixed reaction, to which the Chicago-based carrier has now responded.

United Airlines Boeing 737-824 N37267
The United Aviate Academy expects to take on 100 students this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The approach

The academy is backed by scholarship commitments from both United and JPMorgan Chase. Overall, the program is in place to create opportunities for thousands of students, including women and people of color to pursue a career as a commercial pilot.

In a statement. United CEO Scott Kirby summarised the approach with the following.

“Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program – and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color. We’re excited that JPMorgan Chase has agreed to support our work to diversify our pilot ranks and create new opportunities for thousands of women and people of color who want to pursue a career in aviation.”

United Pilots
United recently shared that it is also resuming the hiring of pilots. Photo: United Airlines

Varying opinions 

Following this ambitious statement, PR Week highlighted that many members of the public took to social media to share their thoughts. Several people shared concerns about the policy while others voiced their support.

On one side, people voiced that race and gender shouldn’t be a factor in a hiring policy. They expressed that qualifications should be the key factor.

On the other hand, other commenters shared that opposers aren’t comprehending the message. The supporters affirm that the program is looking to have a diverse group of students and ultimately, any future pilot will be qualified, regardless of their background.

A word from the airline

United shared the following on Twitter to clarify the hiring policy:

“All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance.”

Moreover, in the company’s initial announcement, there was clarification that it is going for a holistic approach. It said that it is partnering with consumer banking outfit Sallie Mae to offer private student loans to ensure that no highly qualified, highly motivated, eligible applicants will be turned down an opportunity solely because they can’t pay to sign up.

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Last year, the Pilot Institute shared that 6.84% of all pilots are women. Meanwhile, ABC News shared that 1% of US pilots are Black women. So, programs, such as United’s may be looking to give greater opportunities across the board.

Regardless, all service pilots must have the right training and qualifications. United’s announcement doesn’t change this factor.

Simple Flying reached out to United for comment on its program. We will update the article with any further announcements from the airline.

What are your thoughts about the United Aviate Academy policy? Let us know what you think of the program in the comment sections