CRW leader says pilot shortages primary reason behind increase of airline issues nationwide

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia International Yeager Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller says pilot shortages are the primary reason for the uptick in airline cancellations and delays across the country on busy weekends.

According to USA Today and FlightAware, flight delays and cancellations topped 10,000 during the past holiday weekend and continued into Monday. It was the busiest air travel weekend of the year according to the Transportation Security Administration with over 2.4 million people passing through security at U.S. airports on Friday alone.

Nick Keller

Keller said with air travel at a high that has not been seen since pre-pandemic, airlines have not been able to keep up.

“There are pilot shortages and a lot of early retirements when COVID hit. Those pilots are not coming back. Then you have other pilots that age out. That is what is leading to some of the issues you’re seeing now,” Keller said.

Keller added that West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) did not see much in terms of delays and cancellations during the Juneteenth weekend. He said it’s hard to forecast what the 4th of July weekend will look like but knows cancellations at major airports can have a ripple effect on CRW.

“What I look at more than the delays is the cancellations. Our flights are so full that if something gets canceled, you may be waiting a day or two. That’s not just here, that’s anywhere in the country,” Keller said.

According to Forbes, the airline industry anticipates a shortage of 12,000 pilots this year. Only 8,000 pilots have been certified in the past year, Forbes cited the Air Line Pilots Association.

Pilot shortages were one of the reasons why Spirit Airlines reduced its summer flight schedule this year, impacting CRW’s Myrtle Beach service.

Board meeting notes

During the monthly meeting of the Board of Members of the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, Keller discussed the Economic Impact of the West Virginia International Yeager Airport Expansion completed by West Virginia University.

According to the research, more than $1.1 billion in economic output, including $720 million in direct spending and $387 million in secondary impacts is expected in the next 10 years at CRW. The study includes the capital expenditures budget with runway safety improvements, a new public safety building, an aerosapce economic development center, and an airport terminal construction.

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