Delta Air Lines Hiring 8,000 Pilots Over the Next 10 Years

Jul 18, 2018

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Delta Air Lines is hiring pilots. A lot of pilots.

The second-largest US airline is recruiting to fill a predicted 8,000 open positions in its cockpits over the next decade, and the carrier is even encouraging its ticket agents, baggage handlers and flight attendants to consider switching to a pilot role. If they choose to pursue the position, they can even take an unpaid leave of absence for flight school with a pilot job waiting for them at the end of it.

Delta is just one of the airlines beginning to feel the pilot shortage, which is starting to take hold across the world. Boeing predicts a need for 637,000 new pilots across the globe by 2036, with at least 18% of those needed in North America. A major factor driving the shortage is the thousands of commercial pilots hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65 in coming years, as well as the prohibitively expensive cost of flight school that is creating a bottleneck of new pilots.

And Delta is encouraging its internal applicants to attend ATP Flight School, among others, which costs about $80,000 for a student with no flight experience. Along with existing non-pilot employees, the airline is targeting college students to fill its opening jobs in coming years. Delta announced that it’s partnering with eight universities with accredited aviation programs, and it will begin accepting applications from the schools in August.

Among the schools in the program are Auburn University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of North Dakota. Delta says that newly minted pilots can be flying the airline’s major routes in about three-and-a-half years — an accelerated timeline — after clocking flight experience with either military aircraft, flying for Delta Connection carriers, job-share flying Delta Private Jets or instructing with the airline’s partner schools. Passenger airline pilots need at least 1,500 hours of flight experience.

But pilots won’t start to earn big bucks until they make it to the major airline routes. Newbie pilots, who must start at the bottom of the food chain on regional flights, make a starting salary of about $50,000 to $60,000, with the opportunity to earn a bonus of tens of thousands on top of that. Captains at a major airline make about $100,000.

The median salary for Delta’s pilots as of May was $78,740, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you’re in the market for a new job or a career change, check out Delta’s new pilot recruiting program, The Delta Propel Pilot Career Path Program.


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