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How the pilot shortage is impacting summer travel

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Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 19:17:21-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the weather gets hotter and hotter, so does travel demand. However, a perfect storm of factors, including a pilot shortage is causing travelers to see more delays, cancellations, and higher prices.

Travel agent Jessie Ladipo runs Trips to Cherish agency in Lexington. She says she's seeing and helping clients navigate the issues firsthand.

"Fights are overbooked and they are underserved," said Ladipo. "I've had more canceled flights in the last six months than I've had in the last 11 years we've been in business."

Lauren White, Community Relations Manager for Bluegrass Airport says thankfully they've only seen minimal cancellations.

"But we have been seeing that trend that kinda follows along with the trend across the country of cancellations occurring," said White.

Nationwide thousands of flights were canceled during Memorial Day weekend, according to live flight tracker Flight Aware more than 2,526 were delayed and 300 canceled on Wednesday in the United States.

Experts say a shortage of pilots, an issue that's been brewing for years is contributing to the issue. Travelers are now paying attention because they are now feeling the effect.

Kelli Gillispie, Director of Office Operations for Nexgen Aviation says the industry saw this coming. One reason is the move away from extensive pilot training in the military and the mandatory retirement age of 65 for airline pilots. That combination slowed down the pipeline to commercial.

"They would train the pilots, you know, back when we were going to war and things like that you had all of the pilots, from the military that would then funnel into the airlines. That being said, now all of the baby boomers were starting to retire out of the airlines. Thus, you're seeing the shortage," said Gillispie.

Now the pilot pipeline is reliant on universities and private training companies like theirs, which are both costly.

"It's not that's not that people don't want to be a pilot, it's not as attainable to, you know, most," said Gillispie.

Nexgen does offer to finance its courses. Another factor contributing to the shortage is timing because commercial pilots need 1500 hours of flight.

"Through the program and you become a CFI, which is a certified flight instructor, you then can be hired on as a flight instructor (at Nexgen) and build your time. When you finish with your ratings as a CFI, you've got about 250 hours.

Gillispie says that takes around two years to complete that requirement and the hours are in place for insurance purposes. In addition, major airlines also like to see more experience.

"Everything when it comes to flying is how much time do you have and that being said, you know, you're not going to find the UPS pilots that are fresh off the line 1500 hours. You're going to find those guys with a little salt and pepper in their hair and they've been flying for the regionals for several years," said Gillispie.

According to Boeing, airline companies are going to need to do some major hiring to fly and maintain commercial fleets over the next 20 years, with more than 300,000 airline crew, pilots, and maintenance workers needed.

"There's already airliners that are parking planes. You're gonna see a huge, huge, stall in a lot of the airlines coming in the coming months, and the fuel cost isn't helping either," she explained.

For travelers, Ladipo suggests being prepared for some issues during your trip and hiring a travel agent if you feel it might be too stressful to handle on your own.

Other travel tips for price deals :

-Book on Tuesday afternoon

-Clear your browser cookies

-Buy package deals with flights included

-Using airline points

-Travel credit card