How the national pilot shortage will impact Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - The nation is facing a severe pilot shortage nationwide and some of the impacts can be felt right here in Las Vegas.

Louis Smith, President of Future & Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA.aero), says the problem started after 9/11.

"After 9/11, the career collapsed," he said.

It was almost impossible to get people to become pilots. Now, 17 years later, we are feeling the affects of that.

"I've tracked pilot hiring for 46 years, since 1972, when I was in the Air Force, and I've never seen a market like this."

By that, Smith means, there are so many pilot openings and if you're willing to do the work, put in the time, and spend the necessary money to become a pilot, you will have no problem getting a job.

"If someone wants to become a pilot, now would be the time," said Smith. "You just have to find the money."

It's important to note the pilot shortage is mainly impacting the regional airlines, not the main airlines. The reason for that is, when thousands of pilots retire from the main airlines, those companies recruit from the regional airlines leaving tons of openings.

"That created a chain where the larger airlines draw people from the regional sector, draw them from the military, the flight departments, even MGM Grand here in Las Vegas, they have a flight department and they will lose pilots to major airlines."

Industry experts say there's a couple reasons for the major pilot shortage. 

In the next ten years, 35,000 pilots will be forced to retire due to their age. Also, a regulation change in 2010 now forces pilots to log way more flying hours than before. It used to be 190 hours of flying and now it's 1,500 hours of flying. It's time consuming and expensive. It could take a pilot in training two whole years to get those hours.

"It's going to take the big airlines at some point spending money to help people learn to fly," said Smith.

Smith says this shouldn't majorly impact Las Vegas as far as flight cancellations go. It is possible flights in smaller cities operating with regional airlines will have to cancel flights or scale back on how many they offer.

Smith says expect to pay more for frivalous things like a better seat in the middle of the plane versus the back of the plane. And don't expect free luggage any time soon.

"Some of these big airlines can make more than a billion dollars a year in baggage fees."

You may notice more add-on costs rather than an actual increase in the cost of your flight.

Despite the severity of the pilot shortage, experts don't seem too worried.

"The airline industry solved the problem of gravity so I know they can solve the problem of pilot staffing," said Smith.

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