Due to a shortage of pilots, airlines face cancellations and delays. Captain Dennis Taj, Chairman of the Communications Committee of the Allied Pilots Association, joined the Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.
BRIAN CHEUNG: Welcome back to the Yahoo Finance live broadcast. Anyone who traveled by air during the past holiday weekend could suffer frustrating delays at their airport because the country’s airlines tried to handle all traffic with fewer aircraft, but also reduced personnel. All of this happened when industry groups urged the White House to lift COVID restrictions on international travel to the United States.
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Now let’s talk more about this with Captain Dennis Tayer. He is the chairman of the Communications Committee of the Allied Pilots Association. Captain, I just want to start this problem by pointing out that TSA data shows that this holiday weekend, which is four days long, is still slower than the July 4, 2019 holiday before the pandemic. But at the same time, we have seen this great crisis. So what are the biggest constraints in the industry today? Are there fewer planes? Lack of manpower for operating aircraft personnel? What are the main obstacles right now?
DENNIS TAJER: Well, you did well. Although we are a bit behind in 2019 compared to 2019, our capabilities are also decreasing. But our number during the worst depression in 2020 has tripled. So what is the problem? Well, it’s as if airlines are trying to adjust to their COVID before closing. It’s a bit tight. The problem is labor. This is not work behavior, but staffing.
So America made headlines on Father’s Day weekend and, unfortunately, darker headlines. They just ran out of pilots. Therefore, for lack of pilots, they have hundreds of flights. This is not to say that the pilot is not ready to go to work. They just haven’t been trained to do it, so they’re not ready to do the job. It looks so much better this weekend. Unfortunately, it was a difficult weekend for our drivers.
But we can cushion and give our passengers the reliability of canceled flights. In other words, American Airlines has a very high completion rate in the 1990s. We have some time, but not that much. But, you know, you cannot plan airlines for clear skies. You must plan around your performance when the weather hits and the speed of recovery. A few weeks ago, the Americans did not do a good job in this regard. We did better on the 4th day, but the weather was better.
We just can’t push, in fact, after July 4th or sorry, they refused the income on Father’s Day weekend. They lowered the schedule to increase flexibility. This lowers our morale. We have solutions and ideas to complete it, some of them, just with our enthusiasm and trying to get our passengers from A to B, we did it on the weekend of July 4th. But the summer is not over yet. Friend, we canceled the flights in advance, some were canceled not long ago due to lack of passengers. We just cancelled the flight due to lack of pilots. So this must end.
AKIKO FUJITA: Captain, especially with regard to the shortage of pilots, I mean, we saw this even before the pandemic, mainly due to the demographic changes we saw when we were forced to retire at the age of 65. This is a problem, and now you are dealing with a staffing problem, does this indicate how long this problem might last?
DENNIS TAJER: This is a very good point. In fact, a long time ago, we encountered psychic problems. But when it entered the pandemic, it was resolved because my daughter was one of the young pilots who was entering the pipeline and water was flowing. But the epidemic is over. And the tube is very long. It takes a long time to obtain all these qualifications. Therefore, every airline took action. Unfortunately,
American took negative action and was the only major network operator to issue licenses to our 1,600 pilots. So they had to retrain these pilots. All other airlines did what American Airlines did. They offer early retirement to save cash. So this makes training replace those pilots. The United States has parked more than 100 aircraft undergoing training there. Of course, we have pilots voluntarily obtain licenses to save cash. All these integrations are a perfect storm of personnel issues, which is a huge obstacle.
But there is a solution. As a union, we have a way of doing this and a business way of incentivizing flights and, more importantly, giving us flexibility in arrangements. Now, Americans are using an abacus to organize time. This is our joke. On a windy day, it will collapse. So we have to modernize and be entrepreneurial. If this is the case, our schedule at American Airlines can become
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BRIAN CHUNG: I don’t remember when I last saw the abacus. But what I want to ask is only the preparations made by these airlines. Because, as you mentioned, these airlines could have done something ahead of time to avoid some of the bottlenecks that we now face. From the perspective of public discourse alone, these are large airlines that received government support during the worst of the pandemic.
Now they blame a lack of manpower for the flight cancellation, which will eventually punish passengers who try to get back to normal here. So is there any hypocrisy in the way these airlines communicate the problems we face today and the problems passengers see when they go to the airport compared to the problems they might actually encounter?