The skies are proving very friendly for the airline industry these days, with profits up and companies adding to their workforce. Fort Worth-based American Airlines announced this week it plans to hire 1,500 pilots over the next five years, in addition to recalling all pilots that were already furloughed and hiring 1,500 new flight attendants. Jean Medina, spokeswoman for the trade group Airlines for America, says it comes down to one thing--profits. "When airlines are able to earn a profit, even a modest one, they historically have been able to add jobs, invest in their products, invest in technology, and buy new planes...and all of that is great news for customers." She tells KTRH that other airlines are also bringing back furloughed pilots due to increased profits and demand for travel.
American's hiring surge is part of a turnaround nearly two years after the airline filed for bankruptcy protection. American reportedly earned $71 million dollars in August, after losing $82 million that same month a year earlier. Medina says those increased profits are leading to more than just hiring. "Just for the first six months this year, airlines have invested one billion dollars every month in capital investments--that's new planes, new technologies, etc." All of those things can be positives for companies and consumers, but in a struggling economy the investment in hiring is what really makes a difference. "These are good paying jobs with good benefits," says Medina. "Airlines always have had far more applicants than they could possibly hire."
Increased profits aren't the only factor behind the hiring blitz. Many airlines need new pilots as current ones reach the mandatory retirement age of 65. Nevertheless, it is a much better time for the airlines, after nearly a decade of struggles following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 and the recession in 2008. Still pending is the mega-merger between American and U.S. Airways, which would create the world's largest airline. The U.S. Justice Department and the state of Texas are suing to block the merger, claiming it will hurt competition. But Medina's group supports it, claiming it will only enhance the well-being of the airline industry. "Competition is very strong, and airfares have not kept pace with inflation, so flying remains a relative bargain compared with other consumer goods and services," she says.