The number of Canadian pilots wanting to fly to the U.S. is set to triple by 2022, according to previously undisclosed U.S. government data, raising fears that Canada’s shortage could worsen as pilots earn higher wages.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data, about 147 Canadian pilots have applied for licenses to fly commercial aircraft in the United States in 2022, up from 39 in 2021. The number of foreign applications almost doubled to 1,442.
According to advocates, unions and pilots, high demand for travel in the U.S., where pilots receive historic pay raises, is attracting foreign pilots despite delays and the high costs of immigration.
Although the increase in U.S. applications is small, it is concerning for regional Canadian airlines, which like their U.S. counterparts are struggling with staff shortages as they lose pilots to larger airlines, industry experts say.
That could put pressure on Air Canada during negotiations with pilots whose contracts expire on Sept. 29.
Air Canada said this week it will stop six nonstop flights from Calgary at the end of October because of “resource pressures” caused by an industry-wide shortage of regional pilots.
“It’s certainly a concern,” said John Gradek, professor of aviation management at McGill University in Montreal.
At Sunwing Airlines, at least 10% of its approximately 490 pilots apply for jobs in the United States, said Mark Taylor, president of the Unifor union that represents pilots at the company.
Taylor raised the matter with Sunwing, which did not respond to a request for comment. Sunwing was acquired by WestJet Airlines, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Two Sunwing pilots, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not informed their employers of their plans, said they have licenses to fly in the United States and are waiting for immigration papers to move because of higher salaries and the higher cost of living. Major cities of Canada.
Lawyer Jean-Francois Harvey said about 29% of the 560 foreign pilots he helped in the past 12 months were Canadian and flew for Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing.
Air Canada said it could not comment on “pilots’ individual career choices,” but said its flagship airline “is not having difficulty attracting pilots.”
According to Air Canada pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the hourly wage gap between the Canadian carrier and United Airlines is expected to grow from 3% in 2013 to 92% in 2024 for pilots with one category of experience. Prior to 2013, Air Canada pilots earned more.
Gradec warned that a “cascade effect” of large airlines poaching pilots from smaller carriers could lead to lower frequencies and less service on regional routes.
John McKenna, executive director of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), which represents Canada’s smaller airlines, said his members are already cutting frequencies due to staff shortages.
He said everyone is suffering now.
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