Pilot shortages expected in Middle East as air travel demand continues to grow

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Air travel demand is expected to outstrip the supply of airline pilots in most regions globally for the next two years, with the Middle East feeling the effects first, according to a newly released update on pilot shortages in the aviation sector.

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“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,” André Martins, Partner – Head of IMEA Transportation and Services at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, said in a statement on Monday.

The new figures, published by Oliver Wyman, show that this spike in air travel demand coincides with a declining supply of pilots in the Middle Eastern region due to a combination of pandemic-spurred layoffs, a decline in newly-certified pilots, and retirements eventually outstripping new pilots.

“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,” Martins added.

“Failing that, we may see adjustment of schedules into and out of the region, impacting the Middle East’s carriers and airport operators.”

The findings revealed that the regional shortage in pilots could start as early as the end of this year, reaching around 3,000 pilots by 2023 and 18,000 by 2032 if no immediate actions are taken to mitigate the issue.

In early 2021, the firm also forecasted that an impending pilot shortage was on the horizon contrary to the reality at the time as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the aviation sector with signs of recovery appearing to be years away.

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