There is a major pilot shortage in the United States. Regional airlines are most affected by this, but the implications go far beyond that.

There are different ways to solve the pilot shortage. A major regional airline is asking the FAA to lower the minimum number of hours for airline pilots from 1,500 to 750, which seems logical. The pilot retirement age could be increased in the near future in order to solve this issue.

Legislation could increase pilot retirement age

The bill that Lindsey Graham is working on would raise the retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67. Graham is trying to build support for the legislation.

The pilot retirement age has been raised in the past. The retirement age for commercial airline pilots in the United States was raised from 60 to 65 in 2007.

At a time when airlines were on the verge of collapse and many pilots took huge pay cuts, that reflected that people are living longer. The extra five years were supposed to be used to earn back some of the money they lost.

The airline pilot retirement age could be raised by two years

This is logical and shouldn’t face much objection

Raising the pilot retirement age to 67 makes sense to me.

  • Pilots have to undergo recurrent training and medical exams, and they’ll only continue to be able to fly if they’re deemed to be fit to do so
  • Many people don’t actually want to retire at 65, so after they’re forced to retire from the airlines, they go fly for private jet operators (where the same retirement age doesn’t apply)
  • In general forcing “fit” people to retire at an arbitrary age just seems silly to me

How will this affect pilots, unions, and airline management?

  • I don’t see why pilots wouldn’t be in favor of this, assuming flying for an extra two years is simply an option, and nothing is taken away if pilots still want to retire at 65; the only downside might be for more junior pilots, as their seniority may be partially “stalled” for two years (then again, that won’t be a huge issue with the current shortage)
  • I don’t see why unions would object here; they often overly protect the interests of the more senior members, and I’m sure many would love to fly a bit longer
  • If anything, airlines might be most opposed to this in the long run, because it will mean that more pilots are at the top of the pay scale, since pilot pay accounts for how many years you’ve been at the airline; airlines largely prefer more junior employees, who aren’t topping out the pay scale

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association sent out a survey to their members asking for their opinion on whether the retirement age should be increased. Often unions will try to strike down change, but that doesn't seem to be the tone at first.

Pilots have to go through recurrent training

Bottom line

The retirement age for airline pilots in the United States could be raised from 65 to 67. Allowing pilots to have longer careers would definitely help the pilot shortage.

This seems sensible to me. If pilots want to work for an extra two years, and if they are safe to do so, why not allow them to fly a bit longer? I am curious to see what comes of this.

Do you think the pilot retirement age should be increased?