The number of Canadian pilots seeking to fly in the United States has tripled in 2022, according to previously unpublished data from the US government, raising fears of a worsening shortage in Canada as pilots seek higher salaries.
Some 147 Canadian pilots applied for licenses to fly commercial aircraft in the United States in 2022, up from 39 in 2021, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The total number of foreign applications nearly doubled to 1,442.
Strong demand for travel to the United States, where pilots are getting historic pay raises, is attracting foreign airmen, despite delays and high immigration costs, lawyers, unions and pilots say.
While small, the increase in U.S. demands is worrying for Canadian regional carriers, which, like their U.S. counterparts, are grappling with staff shortages as they lose pilots to major airlines, experts say Of the industry.
She could also put pressure on Air Canada during negotiations with its pilots, whose contract expires on September 29.
Air Canada announced this week that it will suspend six nonstop flights from Calgary in late October due to “resource pressures” from an industry-wide shortage of regional pilots.
“It’s definitely a concern,” said John Gradek, a professor of aviation management at McGill University in Montreal.
At Sunwing Airlines, at least 10 percent of some 490 pilots apply to work in the United States, said Mark Taylor, president of the local union Unifor, which represents the company’s airmen.
Taylor said he raised the issue with Sunwing, which did not respond to requests for comment. Sunwing was acquired by WestJet Airlines, which also did not respond to requests for comment.
Two Sunwing pilots, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not inform their employer of their plans, said they had obtained licenses to fly in the United States and were awaiting immigration documents to move, due to the higher salary and high cost of living. in major cities across Canada.
Lawyer Jean-Francois Harvey said about 29 percent of the 560 foreign pilots he has helped in the past 12 months are Canadian and fly for Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing.
Air Canada said it could not comment on pilots’ “individual career choices” but said it had “no difficulty attracting pilots” to its main carrier.
According to Air Canada pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the hourly wage gap between the Canadian carrier and United Airlines UAL.O is expected to grow from 3% in 2013 to 92% in 2024 for a category of experienced pilots. . Air Canada pilots earned more before 2013.
Gradek warned that the “cascading effect” of major airlines recruiting pilots from smaller companies would lead to reduced frequencies and service cuts on regional routes.
John McKenna, chief executive of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), which represents Canada’s smaller carriers, said its members were already cutting frequencies due to staff shortages.
“Everyone is hurting right now,” he said.