United and American Trading Pilots for Bus Drivers on Shorter Routes

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Companies have been losing skilled people across the board for the last two years. The labor statistics might not show it completely, but the numbers are down across the board, and the airlines are not immune. Many have lost numerous pilots and other skilled employees due to mask and vaccine mandates. While many have dropped or loosened these restrictions, it can be too little too late when a seasoned pilot takes early retirement or goes on to another airline.

To combat this shortage, United and American are moving toward offering bus transportation. If you’ve ever taken the bus across town or even across the airport, you know how horrific that trip is. Now, imagine taking this to a smaller airport with some of the same people you were just crammed in a tube with, who are mad about being on the bus, and have kids who are now wide awake.

To make matters worse, you are now stuck on the side of the road due to an unexpected snow slide since United wanted to put you on a bus between Denver and Breckenridge. You’re not later than expected, lost a day of skiing, and the bus smells like vomit because some kid got scared. This is not what you paid for, and yet this is your reality because United and American wanted to pinch some pennies. While they are farming the work out to bus-as-flight company Landline, United and American are taking different methods to introduce the new routes.

United is kicking their bus service shortly, and the Denver to Breckenridge and Fort Collins routes are some of the first routes they plan on taking. Their focus in the area during the summertime is not surprising given the lack of travelers to ski cities anyways. For many, though this will be an unwelcome change and United refused to provide further comment on the changes at this point.

American, on the other hand, is starting their service on June 3rd, and passengers going between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey will be finding themselves on a bus across to their destination. This is a unique approach that American believes is very useful for their needs. “Landline-operated routes are incremental to our schedule – they’re not replacing any flying and aren’t related to pilot staffing.”

While these two airlines are the only ones going the bus route, they are not the only ones feeling the squeeze. Delta Airlines announced that they are changing the requirements for pilots. No longer will a four-year college degree be necessary, just the usual pilot requirements. While many feel that the degree makes it easier for them to relate to their fellow passengers and their crewmembers, it’s not a need in 2022. Proper pilot training matters here, not seat time in a classroom.

Newcomer, Breeze airlines helped pad their pilot staffing for their launch by taking advantage of the E-3 visa program for workers to hire pilots from Australia. This move is helping to set them up for solid success at a level American and United both have fallen far away from. Their quest to become a name known for customer service and caring is one part many airlines forgot about during and after the pandemic.

While these new steps might prove to be cost-effective for the airlines, they have not clearly said how transparent they will be about their new bus service. They also have failed to say what kind of discounts passengers could receive if they opt to take the bus as opposed to a plane when offered an option. Either way, this is a short-term answer for a long-term problem. Hopefully, they find something more suitable very shortly.