Pilot shortage: Expert answers viewer questions

Morning In America

(NewsNation) — While staffing shortages and severe weather are causing some airlines to be forced to delay or cancel flights, they aren’t the only issues that are causing the problem.

Captain Lauren Einsetler, a commercial airline pilot with more than 30 years of experience, answered a viewer’s questions regarding how COVID-19 vaccines are impacting airline staffing on “Morning in America.”

“Summertime travel always can be a bit challenging when you have the summer weather. Right now, because we’re trying to pull out of this pandemic, we are seeing some of the effects from the pandemic and we’re trying to rebound from that right now,” Einsetler said. “So with the staff shortages, we’re doing the best that we can to fly extra flyer days off, cancel our own vacations and just bring as much of the staff back and hire as much as we can.”

Q: “It seems that (U.S. Transportation Secretary) Pete Buttigieg is wagging his finger at the airline industry for the travel delays without acknowledging that at least one root cause is the vaccine mandate. Is there any appetite to lift the vaccine mandate at the federal level for aviation employees?— Kim K., Dallas

Einsetler: “I absolutely agree that is something that has hurt us, actually. So I know that the intention was to best protect everybody, the traveling passengers and the airline employees. But we did lose a certain percentage of those very skilled, very experienced workers through the mandate of getting (vaccinated) or getting fired. So we need to lift that bring those workers back, get them back in their seat position so they can be of service to the industry.”

Q: It seems that some airlines are reducing the requirements for pilots, such as training and education requirements, but not offering any exemptions for vaccines, such as medical or religious exemptions. Why is that? It seems that training and education will be more important than vaccine status at this point.

Einsetler: “Training and education absolutely are because you want to have the most experienced, well-trained, well-rested healthy pilots at your controls so that there’s no chance of kind of mitigating or affecting safety. That is our number one priority. So we need to absolutely keep those requirements and those restrictions in place so that we can meet those and be serving the public that way.

Q: Do you think we’re out of the worst of the delays and cancellations? Has this situation improved? Or will we see another series of cancellations heading towards the end of summer into the fall?

Einsetler: “I think with the weather, it might play a factor. But as we’re planning better, more strategic and being able to do things about being a little more proactive with the resources that we do have, then you’ll just continue to see improvements that way.”

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