Is Now a Good Time to Go to Flight School?

There has been a lot in the news recently about the airline industry in the United States. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people cancelled or never booked flights they would otherwise have taken in normal times. In 2019, the TSA screened about 2.5 million passengers a day on average. After COVID-19 hit, that plummeted to about 90,000 to 130,000 a day—a decrease of more than 95%.

It’s unclear exactly what the future of the airline industry will look like, and even though many journalists have tried to predict what it might be like, it’s impossible to know for sure. One big question that has come up for many people who were considering a career flying aircraft is whether now is a good time to go to flight school. The answer is a definite yes, and here’s why.

The Pandemic Won’t Last Forever

At least, we hope it won’t. While the global travel volume has drastically decreased in the short term, once we figure out a reliable vaccine and get the virus under control, most of the traffic is likely to return. There will be some changes—perhaps people will take a few more meetings over Zoom rather than flying for business—but overall much of the leisure traffic is likely to resume again, meaning there will once again be demand for flights across the country and around the globe.

Early Buyouts and Retirement Will Create Job Opportunities

In the short term, many airlines are looking for ways to cut costs, and one of the things they are considering is offering some older pilots (those age 60 and older) an “early buyout” to retire now. This provides the airlines with more flexibility to avoid significant layoffs for younger pilots, while providing those close to retirement age the opportunity to get out with some financial benefits that might not be there if they were to get laid off.

In the coming year, this will decrease the number of pilots, but in the long term as air travel returns to more normal levels in the future, those early buyouts will leave gaps in staffing that new pilots can fill. Starting flight school now actually positions someone perfectly for a timeline when the hiring is likely to pick up again.

Flight School Takes Time

Certainly right now isn’t a good time to be looking for a job in the airline industry, and with hiring freezes in place and the looming potential layoffs, you might be nervous to start school. But starting now can actually provide you with better opportunities than those who wait until hiring picks up again, and the reason is simple: it takes about two years to complete all your training to become a qualified airline pilot. Starting now means you will be prepared at the time that travel demand is on the rise, while others who wait for the industry to turn around will then be a couple years behind.

Pre-pandemic, Boeing estimated that the world would need about 645,000 new pilots (212,000 in North America alone) to meet the demand between 2019 and 2038. While some of that demand may not materialize, there are still likely to be hundreds of thousands of jobs available.

Start Your Training

It might seem like a scary time to think about a career in aviation, but it’s actually one of the best times to start. Taking a small leap of faith now can set you up for a lucrative career in the future. Find out more about how you can get started at FLT Academy.