- Pilots at United Airlines’ partially-owned subsidiary CommutAir are getting a big pay raise.
- New-hire first officers will now make $ 72 per hour and captains will make $ 100 per hour in their first year.
- The move comes as the airline industry continues to grapple with the pilot shortage.
Pilots at another US regional airline are getting a big pay raise as the pilot shortage continues to take its toll on the industry.
On Wednesday, Cleveland, Ohio-based CommutAir announced a new letter of agreement with its pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), that will up its pilot pay. The carrier, which flies Embraer 145 aircraft, is partially owned by and flies entirely on behalf of United Airlines.
First officers will now earn $ 72 per hour, and captains will earn $ 100 per hour during their first year flying for the airline, according to the company. The prior contract gave CommutAir pilots $ 51 per hour and $ 84 per hour, respectively.
“For years, regional airlines have tried to skimp and save on the most important safety feature on any flight – two highly trained, fully qualified pilots,” CommutAir pilot and union leader Captain Jeffrey Sutter said in a statement. “Today’s agreement at CommutAir is an acknowledgment that airlines must offer competitive packages and work rules to attract and retain pilots.”
In addition to the pay hike, first officers will receive $ 25,000, and Captains will receive $ 50,000 in new-hire sign-on and retention bonuses, according to the airline.
“We are excited about the opportunities this will provide CommutAir and is one more step towards securing our long-term success in the regional airline industry,” CommutAir CEO Rick Hoefling said in a press release.
Hoefling told The Points Guy in an interview that during the pandemic, the airline had to store aircraft last year due to the lack of crews. But, CommutAir, which has hubs in Chicago, Houston, and Washington, DC, has recently reactivated those planes and increased its flying this year.
“We went from a small regional airline to a bigger one in the middle of the pandemic,” Hoefling said.
The move comes as the airline industry grapples with the ongoing pilot shortage, which was exacerbated post-pandemic when travel demand skyrocketed beyond what airlines anticipated.
In June, American Airlines’ wholly-owned carriers – Envoy Air, PSA Airlines, and Piedmont Airlines – announced pilots would be bumped up nearly twice their former salary, with first-year captains now making $ 146 per hour through August 31, 2024.
Then, in July, mainline American increased its pilot pay by up to $ 64,000 to alleviate the pilot shortage.
While some airlines are upping pay, some are taking different routes to manage the shortages. Alaska Airlines slashed some of its summer flying in May, with CEO Ben Minicucci saying in a YouTube video that the carrier “had 63 fewer pilots than what we planned for when we built our scheduled” and that it caused a “ripple effect.”
Carriers are also launching aggressive hiring campaigns and opening new flight schools to get pilots flying faster, like United Airlines’ Aviate Academy in Arizona.