Pilot shortages: The right support to make the right decisions

Two pilots in the cockpit

The world needs more pilots. Despite the rise in demand for air travel, airlines are having trouble getting enough pilots to satisfy that demand. Some of the largest US airlines will start running out of pilots in the next three years. Asia’s airlines will need approximately 230,000 pilots by 2030 and will have to train approximately 14,000 people annually to meet that demand.

“Well,” you scoff, “just hire more pilots!” But reality is never that simple. The pilot career path is hierarchical, and recruitment only happen at the bottom. A vacancy at the top means a promotion at a lower level. The new vacancy is filled by a promotion another level down, and so on. A new pilot gets hired, and several others need additional training. Add to this the prohibitive cost of pilot training and certification, low passing rates of pilot students and a shortage of flight simulators available for training, and you have the recipe for a turbulent future.

In a climate of fluctuating demand and economic uncertainty, airline carriers battle to remain profitable. Carriers are expected to provide more with less. Yet many airlines struggle with the complexity of creating transition plans that achieve business goals and benefit the bottom line. Why is that?

Imagine that you’re the planner. You’re tasked with creating transition plans that must achieve the following:

  • Anticipate uncertain flight demand up to years in advance
  • Plan career transitions to provide the right manpower in every pilot group
  • Accommodate training and vacation plans for thousands of pilots
  • Make sure that all planned transitions are compliant with contractual requirements

Can you pull it off? Not without a little help.

You need a system that’ll automatically flag possible violations to existing laws and constraints. It should give you real-time KPI feedback, allowing you to assess the quality of your plan before implementation. It should enable you to make tweaks to the plan at a moment’s notice. You should be able to foresee the impact of vacations and training on proposed transitions. But most importantly, it should help you generate what-if scenarios, giving you the confidence to make the right business decision every time.

Such a system already exists. It’s how KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plans 700 pilot transitions and 8,000 holiday awards every year. An intelligent planning platform powered by proven optimization technology is what you need to weather the storm ahead.