The Air Line Pilots Association says raising the retirement age for pilots is no magic bullet for the current shortage and it will oppose any attempt to make the change. For the past week there have been unverified reports on social media of pending legislative action to boost the retirement age to 67 or 68 from the current 65 as a quick fix to the staffing crisis. In fact, says ALPA, simply waving that not-so-magic wand will create chaos in the current seniority-based flight bidding process because the rest of the world is sticking with 65 as the retirement age and the older pilots won’t be able to bid on the international flights most of them fly.
“When age 65+ airline pilots return to domestic-only flying, they will then displace more junior pilots and both cohorts may require training on different aircraft, adding to the training costs of air carriers,” ALPA said in a statement. “Furthermore, most regional airline pilots leave the regional industry long before age 65 for more lucrative jobs at mainline or low-cost carriers or other opportunities. Therefore, the pool of domestic-service pilots will not increase appreciably without additional training costs or disruptions.”
ALPA blames the current delays, cancellations and other mayhem at the airport on what it says is the mismanagement of COVID relief funds doled out to the airlines when restrictions collapsed the market. “This discussion is yet another attempt to distract the conversation from the real issue which is the failure of airlines to deliver on a key goal of the multibillion-dollar relief plan Congress provided them during the pandemic which was to effectively manage air-service operations as travel resumes,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. He called the talk of a boost in retirement age a bid “to divert attention away from their mismanagement of the pandemic relief, while attempting to weaken aviation safety.”