Horizon Air, a regional affiliate of Alaska Airlines, is planning to reduce its flight schedule this fall due to an ongoing pilot shortage.
In a memo from Horizon Chief Executive Dave Campbell to staff obtained by the Seattle Times, Campbell said that a further reduced flight schedule would take effect September 4, although the details on how that schedule will look are still being worked out. The regional airline has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights this summer due to a shortage of pilots qualified to fly its Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft. Horizon also said it plans to swap in aircraft from an outside contractor and from Alaska Airlines to fill holes in its schedule.
“Our ability to attract, train and retain pilots did not keep pace with our growth plans, and that led to numerous cancellations since December,” Campbell wrote, according to FlightGlobal. “Clearly, we were not at our best and our leadership team did not deliver for you and our guests.”
According to an analysis in Business Insider, a lack of qualified pilots has been a serious problem for regional airlines. While mainline carriers, such as United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta have no shortage of qualified candidates, regional affiliates, like United Express, Delta Connection, and American Eagle are facing a serious lack of qualified pilots. Low pay and harsh working conditions at regional airlines, along with a serious commitment of time and money required to become trained, mean these airlines can have trouble drawing pilots. At the same time, the regional sector has expanded rapidly, currently accounting for 53 percent of all domestic departures in the United States, meaning more regional jobs need to be filled. While some regional carriers have started improving salaries and benefits, change is coming slowly.