The economic recession that began at the end of 2007 forced the airline industry to shrink, and the affects of that economic contraction are being dealt with more than four years after the recession officially came to an end, in June 2009.
Five of the nine largest airline operators in the United States reported losses in 2009 totaling nearly $4 billion. Then the economic climate began to improve.
An indication of how much business has improved for the industry, late last week United Continental announced that it will recall the last 600 pilots the company put on furlough as a result of the recession.
The Air Line Pilots Association reported that these returning pilots are the last of the 1,437 United pilots that were temporarily laid off in 2008 and 2009. United now has approximately 12,000 pilots.
As the recall of United’s furloughed pilots suggests, commercial air traffic has rebounded, and the 10 largest U.S. passenger airlines — including Delta, US Airways, American, and United — reported a collective net profit of $1.6 billion for the first six months of 2013, an improvement over the $1.2 billion reported during the same period last year.
“We look forward to welcoming back our co-workers as we complete work to integrate all of our pilots into a single work group,” Howard Attarian, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, said in the press release announcing the return of the last furloughed pilots. “We are pleased to have this group of talented aviators back on our team. They are among the most experienced and most accomplished in the industry.” Training for the recalled pilots will begin next month and run through the end of the year, according to the airline.
Most airlines have announced that they will be hiring new pilots, and many others are also recalling their furloughed pilots. US Airways said last month that it would recall the last 66 furloughed America West pilots, and American has offered to recall all of its furloughed pilots, while Delta has said it plans to hire 300 pilots beginning in November.