Clients By Industry

Pilot, Attendant and Mechanic Turnover in Airline Industry

In the 1970’s the airline industry had 250 million passengers. As of last year, commercial airlines carried just over FOUR BILLION passengers. An increase in passengers has led to a 46% rise in employees to 480,000 airline workers today. For the first time, US Airlines are in competition with ultra-low cost international carriers. While working for an airline was once a highly coveted position, the millennial desire for more flexibility in the work place makes the rigor and pressures of a career in the airline industry less desirable. From mechanics to flight attendants to pilots, airline employees are critical to the success and safety of each flight. A shortage across all three roles created the need for airlines to both build stronger candidate pipelines, and continuously build employees’ capabilities from within through training and development.

  • Only 60% of flight attendant new hires make it through training and only 50% remain past their first year.
  • The 3 S’s hit your people EVERY DAY: Safety, Stress, and Speed!
  • Only 12% of millennials in the airline industry are fully engaged (Gallup)

The Global Pilot Shortage

Despite the airline industry’s recent growth, it is struggling to maintain a steady supply of pilots. As carriers attempt to attract top talent and overcome training bottlenecks, they’re planes are sitting idly by. Great Lakes Airlines “stopped flying on March 26 not because it ran out of money, but because it couldn’t hire enough pilots.” The issue is widespread across the industry. With the mandatory retirement age, it is estimated that at least 18,000 pilots will need to be replaced in the next 7 years. However, the current pipeline from flight training programs to regional lines is not strong enough to fulfill this gap. The rising cost of aviation training climbs to six figures. Both the shortage of available pilots and record low unemployment rates means that those who are in the job market have the upper hand. To compensate, airlines raised salaries in order to compete with one another for the best talent. Unfortunately, many charter companies cannot keep up with the rising salaries offered by the majors. And the majors struggle to fend off international carrier’s incentives of $100k to $200k signing bonus to fly in emerging overseas markets.


Flight Attendant Turnover

Deregulation in the airline industry led to increased demand for service quality from the cabin crew. Flight attendants must meet higher standards of productivity and work longer hours, while receiving lower pay rates and less job security. Despite this, they are expected to provide best in class customer service. The role of flight attendant is challenging to say the least. The physical demands, stress, and time away from family can lead to burnout and turnover. Though there is an abundance of potential candidates ready to join the ranks, the most successful airlines know that to be best in class, they can’t just churn new hires in and out of the workforce. They must be able to retain their most talented veteran flight attendant


Airplane Mechanics

As technological advances and standards rise, there is a higher need for airplane mechanics to make updates, modifications, and repairs to older jets. The Air Transport Association reports that there are about 4,000 vacancies for airplane mechanics this year. This need is forecasted to grow to 50,000 in the next 10 years! The faster turnaround times create additional pressure to accelerate jobs and fixes.

Rather than hire mechanics themselves, many airlines contract with repair shops that contract independently. In reality, independent repair shops with limited resources struggle with retention themselves. We are seeing firms that have to turn away clients because they do not have the resources or manpower in place to commit to new contracts. This escalates to cost millions in delays or cancellations. There is a solution.

3 ways to Reduce Turnover at YOUR Airline NOW:

  1. Exit Interviews start you off with actionable intelligence to reduce turnover fast. Using a third party like Retensa to conduct exit interviews creates the safety net your flight crew and desk agents need to avoid burning bridges and be honest about why they leave. Then you can pinpoint the root causes for high turnover at your airline and prepare strategies to help increase retention of pilots, flight attendants, and customer service agents today. Many companies run alumni outreach and active employee listening campaigns with Retensa technology. Those can help to target pilots most likely to return. Don’t wait any longer to get reliable data to unlock the insights hidden in your workforce. This is the FIRST STEP to predict and prevent turnover for pilots, maintenance, and crew.
  2. Retention Diagnostic identifies the areas where your airline is excelling when it comes to retention, as well as where it can focus to create the biggest impact. In the airline and aviation industry, there will always be travel, longer than average hours, and in high pressure emergencies. Retensa focuses on the issues you can control. To reduce flight attendant cost of turnoveryou need more than just knowing the root causes of low morale, high absenteeism, or disengagement. After all, there is more to the pilot shortage than just pay. You need clear and actionable recommendations to retain your best crew members and desk agents. Get 12 to 24 precise and prioritized recommendations GUARANTEED to reduce turnover in 90 days or less. AND you know exactly what NOT to do, because we identify what won’t work.
  3. Retention Skills Training is critical because the being a great manager takes different skills than being a great agent or crew member. As every airline knows, the difference between carriers begins and ends with training. Retensa provides data-driven training based on customized insights from what your airline employees say they want and need from leadership. Retention enables yours managers to interpret the real-time data from survey responsessent by each flight attendant or mechanic to course correct. Each manager trained is more able to coach employees, provide powerful feedback and deliver meaningful recognition. Just like the data every plane has today, once you have it, you cannot imagine flying without it.


With projected shortages across mechanics, attend, and pilots, retention will not get easier by itself. Fortunately, there are real tactics that work. Get proactive to reduce turnover and increase connection and commitment to your airline. Call us now at (212) 545-1280 or email a retention expert here.