Breeze Airways, the startup airline launched by JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, is facing the global shortage of pilots as air travel ramps up. The tactic the company is using to tackle this problem is by hiring from Australia and giving increment to their existing pilots. The startup airline is looking to fill about 280 open pilot spots as more aircraft are delivered and the aviation industry looks to return to normal.
The company has been steadily hiring pilots throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is expanding its efforts as it grows its fleet of aircraft.
As per the company’s statement, Australian pilots will be able to work as Breeze pilots under the E-3 work visa program. The aviation startup is encouraging skilled Australian nationals to apply to legally work in the US and it is a tested method considering regional airlines including CommutAir and ExpressJet Airlines have used the program to recruit pilots from the country before.
"It's an opportunity to give good, hardworking, well-qualified folks jobs who want to live in the US [and] want to be a pilot for a US airline," said Christopher Owens, Breeze's vice president of flight operations.
Breeze already has around 120 applicants for the program, with the majority of pilots living in Australia and some who are already in the US. Pilots from Down Under will, however, incur travel and visa costs before being able to fly for Breeze.
Other solutions include paying existing pilots more to manage attrition. First-year pay for A220 first officers is $68 per flight hour, up by $13.
"The reason for that was the overwhelming feedback that we received back from the pilots," Owens. "Their three top priorities were: pay rates, pay rates, and pay rates."
Breeze is also seeking airline pilots that retired during the pandemic but still have a few years left before reaching the Federal Aviation Administration's mandatory retirement age of 65.