Envoy Air needs pilots and is willing to pay more to get them.
The regional carrier owned by American Airlines Group said on Wednesday that it has boosted the starting pay rate for new pilot hires to $38 per hour, almost double the current rate.
With the new pay rate, Envoy said its first officers can earn $58,000 or more in their first year of flying for the airline. It will also offer $20,000 retention bonuses to new hires and existing first officers, in addition to $20,000 signing bonuses.
“Hiring more new pilots allows us to compete for additional flying,” said Ric Wilson, vice president of flight operations. “And it provides swifter career progression for our first officers looking to upgrade to captain and our captains who are in line to flow-through to the mainline.”
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Regional carriers have been facing a severe pilot shortage as new federal rules increased the number of hours required for a pilot to fly a commercial jet and mandatory pilot retirements forced hundreds of mainline pilots out of the cockpit at big carriers like American or Delta Air Lines.
As part of a contract approved in December 2014, pilots at Envoy were guaranteed jobs at American Airlines as the network carrier adds new pilots to its ranks. That ten-year contract included pay scale freezes but allowed Envoy to operate larger aircraft for American.
Another American regional subsidiary, PSA Airlines, also announced similar pay increases and bonuses for new hires on Wednesday. The carriers are among 10 small airlines that operate American Eagle flights for American.
Aviation industry analyst Bob Mann said Envoy and PSA are following Republic Airways, which negotiated a pilot contract late last year with starting pay of $40 an hour. With more pilot retirements scheduled in the next few years, regional and mainline carriers have been competing to hire new pilots.
“Getting people’s attention is the key thing because for the better part of a decade it’s been [career] stagnation and $19 an hour, and that didn’t interest anyone in to becoming a pilot,” Mann said. “The regional industry here is faced with doing something or watching the [pilot] pipeline dry up completely.”