An airline is offering more than $180,000 in potential bonuses to recruit and retain pilots amid a massive shortage

  • American Airlines' wholly-owned subsidiary Piedmont Airlines is offering up to $180,000 in retention bonuses.

  • Captains and upgrading first officers will receive a $30,000 bonus, according to the carrier.

  • Envoy Air and PSA Airlines are also offering hefty bonuses, with $150,000 in potential earnings.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Pilots employed at American Airlines' regional carrier subsidiary Piedmont Airlines can earn over $180,000 in retention bonuses.

Elevate Pilot Careers is Piedmont's new retention program, offering current and new flight crew members a generous bonus for committing to the company. The tentative agreement was made in partnership with Air Line Pilot Association, the world's largest pilot union representing over 60,000 crewmembers, and company management. Piedmont said that the program was created to ensure stability for pilots in an industry still battling the uncertainty of the pandemic.

"Piedmont is making an enormous investment in our business and our pilot group. This is an important step in building a post-pandemic, sustainable airline that can thrive well into the future," said Piedmont CEO Eric Morgan in a press release.

Current employees can expect a big payout, starting at $30,000 immediately for all Captains and $30,000 for First Officers who upgrade to Captain.

Piedmont pilots hired at American either through Piedmont's flow program or outside the flow will receive $70,000. According to the airline, all pilots hired at Piedmont are guaranteed a job at American after one year of service with no interview required, known as a flow. Each month, eligible pilots "opt-in" or "opt-out" of the flow and the most senior employees will be sent to American. On average, Piedmont pilots flow to the mainline carrier after about five years of service, according to the airline.

Crew members who have qualifying hours for the previous calendar year can earn up to $50,000 over two years of service, meaning each pilot has to meet their minimum hours of work each year to qualify for the bonus. At Piedmont, pilots will need to commit to working at least 900 hours per year to be eligible.

According to the airline, pilots are eligible for multiple incentives, not just one. Therefore, new-hire pilots who commit to Piedmont, meet their minimum hours for two years, and flow to American can receive up to $182,500 in total bonuses.

"Piedmont pilots have delivered excellent performance throughout the pandemic, consistently leading all other regionals in the American Airlines regional partner portfolio. Their service to Piedmont and our customers in this difficult time has allowed us to maintain our flying and step up to fly additional routes when travel demand increased. We are proud to watch them continue their careers at American as we welcome a new group of pilots to Piedmont to begin their journey," said Piedmont's vice president of flight operations, Steve Keefer.

According to Piedmont's pilot union ALPA, it wants to attract the "best and brightest" pilots in the industry with competitive pay and benefits, along with opportunities for career progression and generous bonuses.

"ALPA was pleased to work with Piedmont management on this industry-leading agreement that will not only ensure that our airline is an attractive candidate for pilots entering the profession, but that we reward those who choose to stay within the American Airlines family," said Piedmont ALPA Master Executive Council Chairman Captain Brandon Lighty.

ALPA also negotiated a pay increase for the 673 Piedmont pilots, effective November 1. According to ALPA, the raise will bring salaries in line with American's other wholly-owned carriers Envoy Air and PSA Airlines.

According to company emails viewed by Insider, AA subsidiaries Envoy Air and PSA Airlines will offer a lesser, yet still generous, $150,000 retention program. The email outlined $30,000 for captains and upgrading first officers, and incentives to flow into AA, though the companies didn't specify a dollar amount.

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