American Airlines is on a hiring spree — and is offering $250,000 bonuses to poach FedEx and UPS pilots to jump from piloting cargo carriers to working as captains on its passenger planes.
PSA Airlines, a regional carrier owned by American, is dangling the six-figure bonus for UPS and FedEx pilots who can help fill a gap in service to smaller US cities — which has widened over the past year as smaller airports have been forced to cancel flights due to a lack of pilots, according to The Wall Street Journal.
PSA is reportedly desperate for aviators with enough experience to join the cockpit as a captain after being forced to keep many of its planes grounded.
Last year, 30 airports in the continental US lost at least half of the departures they had in 2019, The Journal reported, citing figures from Airline Data Inc.
American, for example, operated its last flight out of Williamsport Regional Airport in Pennsylvania — located in a city with a population of around 30,000 that hosts the Little League World Series every year — in September 2021, saying it wasn’t financially viable, per The Journal.
“It’s not completely crickets in there, but it’s pretty close,” airport director Richard Howell told the outlet last year.
However, UPS and FedEx pilots have said that switching gigs to shuttle passengers to small US cities means stepping down in prestige, according to The Journal.
Pilots also cited more uncertainty over pay and working conditions, which American is evidently working to refute with a $250,000 bonus — $175,000 of which they’ll received in their first paycheck and the remaining $75,000 at their one-year anniversary.
FedEx pilots, meanwhile, are typically paid between $69 and $336 per hour based on seniority and the type of plane they fly, with a minimum guaranteed 68 hours of work a month, per The Journal.
However, cargo pilots have been faced with fewer flights in recent months as parcel volume has decreased.
According to The Journal, waning demand has left FedEx with an excess of some 700 pilots.
The Memphis-based delivery company reported has a total of about 5,800 pilots after a hiring spree that resulted from the post-pandemic travel boom.
When The Post reached out to American for comment, a company spokesperson pointed to landing pages on PSA’s website that boasts the benefits of going “cargo to commercial,” such as wages that start between $150 to $217, as determined by the Pilot Pay Scale.
Cargo pilots will also have to weigh whether they’re up for a schedule change, as they generally have a more fixed timetable and fewer legs to fly in a day compared with their counterparts at passenger airlines — and historically have had a lower risk of furloughs — according to The Journal.
However, the opportunity could potentially be made more attractive with the new contract American approved over the summer for workers represented by the Allied Pilots Association, which will see unionized workers getting a pay bump and increased company contributions to retirement plans.
The new deal also includes more vacation benefits and changes designed to give pilots more predictable schedules, the union said of the labor contract, which doesn’t expire in the airline industry — part of a federal law designed to make strikes nearly impossible.
Rather, they become open for change or “amendable” at their conclusion. Bargaining on the next contract for American’s pilots could begin as soon as November 2026.