Pilot stock
The strong demand for travel has already resulted in Dubai International increase its annual forecast for 2022 to 62.4 million passengers. Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: As travel demand picks up, the demand for airline pilots is set to outstrip supply in most regions.

The shortage is likely to persist between 2022 and 2024, and effects will be first felt in the Middle East, according to global management consultancy Oliver Wyman.

“We expect the Middle East to be the region affected soonest by the shortage outside of North America, driven by a projected sharp increase in air travel demand over the next few years, new players entering the market and big tourism developments happening in the region,” said André Martins, Partner – Head of IMEA Transportation and Services at Oliver Wyman.

Data shows that this spike in demand for air travel coincides with flat and then declining supply of pilots in the region due to a combination of lay-offs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a falling number of newly-certified pilots, and retirements eventually outstripping new pilots. The regional shortage could start as early as the end of this year, reaching an estimated 3,000 pilots by 2023 and 18,000 by 2032 if no accelerated mitigation actions are taken.

“If demand for air travel continues to grow, airlines need to accelerate recruiting efforts from other regions where we anticipate less acute shortages, particularly Latin America and Asia Pacific, to fill gaps. Failing that, we may see adjustment of schedules into and out of the region, impacting the Middle East’s carriers and airport operators,” added Martins.

DXB traffic surges

The strong demand for travel has already resulted in Dubai International increase its annual forecast for 2022 to 62.4 million passengers.

The steady surge of growth throughout the second quarter has propelled DXB’s half-yearly traffic to 27.9 million passengers, just 1.2 million shy of the airport’s total annual traffic last year. DXB achieved the milestone despite a significant reduction in capacity resulting from the 45-day closure of its northern runway in May-June for a major refurbishment project.

DXB recorded 14.2 million passengers in the second quarter of 2022, a year-on-year jump of 190.6 per cent.

North America’s gap

With the lifting of COVID-19-related sanctions on air travel, demand rebounded more quickly in North America than elsewhere. As a result, the region already has an acute pilot shortage, equivalent to 11 per cent of pilot supply, or about 8,000 pilots, and this gap will only widen throughout the decade, the consultancy said.

Surplus markets

Europe currently is in surplus and is expected to remain so until the middle of the decade, but then a shortage of 19,000 pilots by 2032 is forecast, driven predominately by increased demand.

Asia, too, currently has a surplus of pilots, mainly due to the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on demand.

Only two regions are unlikely to see a growing shortage of pilots over the decade: Demand is not expected to outpace supply in Latin America, and a small shortage of pilots in Africa is expected to shrink over the decade as pilot availability increases, the consultancy said.