As airlines struggle to meet travel demand due to pilot shortages, Breeze Airways is implementing unique approaches in hiring pilots. The startup airline needs around 280 pilots for its Embraer E190, Embraer E195, and Airbus A220 aircraft.
For starters, Breeze raised pilot pay. The new pay scales for Breeze pilots take effect in January. According to Christopher Owens, the airline’s vice president of flight operations, airbus pilots earn slightly higher than those who fly Embraer planes. The reason for this is the “additional revenue-generating capability” of Airbus planes.
According to the new pay scales, pay for first-year first officers is at $68 for flying A220 planes. That’s a $13 jump. On the other hand, Embraer first officers will be paid $61 per hour, which is up by $6.
Owens said that the airline listened to the “overwhelming feedback” they received from pilots. According to their pilots, “Their three top priorities were: pay rates, pay rates, pay rates”.
Hiring Australian Pilots and Other Ideas to Address Pilot Shortages
Breeze is also implementing out-of-the-box ideas address pilot shortages. The airline is hiring Australian pilots to fill in spots. Australian pilots can work as Breeze pilots using the E-3 work visa program. However, this strategy isn’t exactly new. CommutAir and ExpressJet Airlines also used the visa program to hire pilots from the country.
Owens said that “It’s an opportunity to give good, hardworking, well-qualified folks jobs who want to live in the US”.
So far, the carrier’s strategy is working with around 120 applicants for the program. The majority of the pilots are living in Australia but some are already based in the US. However, Australian pilots will be the ones who will shoulder visa-related expenses.
Aside from hiring Australian pilots, Breeze is also looking to establish a pipeline program along with a major US flight school. Plus, Breeze is also looking to hire retired pilots below the age of 65. Owens said that “Anybody who has three years left would be great because they bring in maturity discipline, and lots of experience”.