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Airlines hiring buses to transport passengers between airports during pilot shortage

Several US airlines struggling to find pilots amid a nationwide shortage are hiring bus companies to transport passengers to airports in cities that are only a short flight away.

American Airlines, the country’s largest airline, announced a partnership with a coach company earlier this month to transport passengers between Philadelphia International Airport and airports in Allentown, Pennsylvania [73 miles away] and Atlantic City, New Jersey [56 miles away].

American and the bus company, Landline, said the service would be an easier way to get to and from the two airports rather than flying. The service is scheduled to begin on June 3.

United Airlines also has deals with Landline, which is based in Fort Collins Colorado. United has offered one-stop connections on the buses from the Denver airport to or from Breckenridge and Fort Collins since April 1.

The bus company said it raised $28 million to expand its geographic reach.

The bus services come as airlines desperately try to hire new pilots. The shortage will likely cause ticket prices to skyrocket as airlines have been forced to ground some of their fleet, increasing demand.

Over the next 15 years, the United States will lose half of all its pilots, according to the Regional Airline Association, as the Federal Aviation Association mandates that all pilots must retire at 65. American Airlines expects 5,000 of its 15,000 pilots to retire in the next seven years, according to ABC. The pandemic also caused a wave of early retirements.

US airlines hope to add 13,000 pilots just this year, but America produces only between 5,000 and 7,000 pilots annually, according to United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, ABC News reported.

“The pilot shortage for the industry is real and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plan because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five plus years,” Kirby said during an earnings call last week. “The other really large airlines will also probably be able to attract enough pilots, but for anyone else, I just don’t think it’s mathematically possible to meet the pilot demand for the capacity plans that are out there.”

Kirby said United’s regional partners have grounded 150 planes because of the pilot shortage.

Jet Blue announced it would be cutting 8-10 percent of its flights beginning in May through the summer, citing a “challenging staff situation,” the airline told CNN.

American is hiring 50-70 pilots each week this year — a higher rate than at any time in its history, according to ABC.

United hopes to hire more than 2000 pilots this year, and has opened its own flight school, Aviate Academy, and plans to train 5,000 pilots by 2030 at a subsidized cost in exchange for a commitment to flying with the airline.

United predicts it could be five to six years before there’s relief for mid-size and regional airlines, who are struggling even more to find pilots, ABC News reported.

This article originally appeared in the New York Post

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