State of Aviation: New Survey Results for Commercial Pilots

Published: 02-22-2022
How do commercial airline pilots feel about the career? A new survey reveals.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

As mask mandates begin to phase out across the country and airlines like Southwest once again begin serving alcohol, these advancements may look like we are putting the impacts of the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, a new survey paints a darker picture of the lasting effects of shutdowns, travel restrictions, furloughs, and cautious travelers.

What’s the Recent Pilot Survey?

The Pilot Survey 2022 is conducted by FlightGlobal and Goose, a recruitment agency for the aviation industry. The most recent survey (taken at the end of 2021) asked 1,743 professional pilots about their careers and sentiment about flying.

The most striking statistic is that more than one-third of commercial airline pilots are not flying to make a living, and 20% remains unemployed.

Employment Changes By Region

There is some improvement from the numbers at the height of the pandemic. 62% of pilots are “employed and currently flying.” That number is up from 43% last year.

And while 20% of all surveyed pilots are unemployed, that is up from 30% last year.

The survey, however, stretches across the globe. Airline Pilot Central primarily speaks to the North American market, and we are fortunate to announce that 81% of NA pilots are flying. While 19% is still too many pilots without a job (unemployed or furloughed), the NA market is outperforming much of the rest of the world.

The Asia-Pacific market (not counting China) has only 53% employment for pilots, due to many severe travel restrictions. Europe’s total figures match the 62% of the global average.

Confidence is Low

While North American employment numbers remain decent, the flight crew shortages are still popping up, and many fear a looming number of retirements from senior captains. A retirement wave could leave regional carriers understaffed.

40% of the unemployed North American pilots say they are “not at all confident” about returning to flying.

This low confidence trickles down into word-of-mouth about the career as well. 55% of all pilots say they would not recommend the career to young people, due to the uncertainty in the current market. Hopefully, as the world opens back up, more will see the lucrative opportunities in becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Mandatory Vaccines Remain Controversial

Coping with the pandemic also meant dealing with new regulations and requirements. Debates about mandatory vaccines, transmission, and bodily autonomy rage in every sector of every business.

68% of all pilots think being double vaccinated should be a requirement for all pilots. This number falls to 57% in North America, where only 80% have been fully vaccinated with both shots.