Should US Raise Retirement Age for Commercial Airline Pilots?
Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash
A proposal has long been brewing to raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial airlines from 65 to 67. The US House of Representatives has finally cast their defining vote on the matter, and they voted to raise the retirement age.
This vote came as part of the bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill, called the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, passed with bipartisan support by a 351 to 69 vote.
While the Senate still has to vote and then reconcile their version of the bill, it’s looking like the mandatory retirement age will be raised for pilots unless something drastic happens. Let’s look at the pros and cons for such a change.
Arguments FOR Raising the Mandatory Retirement Age for Pilots
Proponents of raising the retirement age say that such a change could benefit experienced pilots. They argue that pilots could earn more money and work longer. As medical care continues to advance, pilots could still be productive later and later in life.
The most salient argument for proponents of the change is that airlines lack staff. Raising the retirement age adds more pilots to the pool of available workers.
More pilots means less delays and cancellations due to lack of available people to fly the plane. More routes could be kept open.
Regardless of reason – whether unpreparedness or neglect – airlines were not ready for the resurgence of travel after the pandemic. More pilots added to the ranks could alleviate this issue.
Arguments AGAINST Raising the Mandatory Retirement Age for Pilots
Raising the retirement age is opposed by major unions including the following:
The Air Line Pilots Association International
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Transportation Trades Department
Transport Workers Union of America
Safety is a primary concern. There is a lack of studies on the effect of extending the retirement age. The US is a leader in airline safety, and commercial airline pilots are responsible for the lives of the hundreds of people onboard the aircraft.
Captain Ed Sicher, president of the Allied Pilots Association which represents American Airlines’ 15,000 pilots, said: “Health concerns such as cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and diabetes become more prevalent as we age — something that has been studied extensively and demonstrated by American Airlines’ own data.”
In addition to safety, there are logistical concerns. Raising the retirement age to 67 would put the US in opposition to the international standard. Pilots aged 65-66 would be forced to only fly domestic routes, and many would have to be retrained to operate smaller aircraft for regional routes.
Opponents of raising the retirement age also say that it will take longer for existing pilots to advance in their profession towards the role of captain or have their choice of scheduling. While pilots in the 65-66 age bracket would be able to hold on for a couple more years, this could stagnate the mobility of other pilots.
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