HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Nationwide pilot shortages are impacting Rio Grande Valley airports just as summer travel is about to begin. The pilot shortages could mean higher prices or more canceled flights for travelers.
“There’s been a lot of disruption as we came back from the pandemic because of pilot and crew shortages,” said Marv Esterly, the Director of Aviation at Valley International Airport in Harlingen.
The pilot shortages are causing airlines to increase their training in order to get as many pilots as possible up in the air.
“There were a lot of pilots and crews who were retiring, you had the baby boomers retiring but also there was crew that in terms of flight attendants as well they were retiring early,” said Esterly on why pilots are leaving the workforce.
The shortage of crews at airports left travelers with canceled flights. Now, airlines are having to make changes.
“I know that with United here at Valley International Airport there has been some reduction in the type of aircraft, the size of the aircraft flown and it all has to do with pilots and crews at this time,” said Esterly.
With a reduction in flights, it could mean higher prices. Esterly said there’s another factor contributing to the price spike.
“There’s a lot of other things that are going to affect the price of the ticket like fuel. Fuel prices have skyrocketed and of course, that’s probably going to have more of an effect,” he said.
Esterly added that it will take time for airlines to fix the pilot shortage.
“A new pilot has to have at least 1,500 hours of flight time before they can even get hired by an air carrier and then they have to bring him up through the ranks so it does take time to take care of the pilot shortage,” he said.
Travel experts say purchasing your flight tickets in advance can save you the headache at the airport, but add travelers should have patience as airlines work on hiring more pilots.