With the current pilot shortage in the United States, Frontier Airlines is getting creative with its pilot recruitment, and is looking abroad.
Frontier hiring Australian first officers with E-3 visas
The pandemic has obviously had a major impact on the airline industry. Around two years ago airlines were in a rough spot as demand for air travel plummeted, and many pilots were either furloughed or given early retirement packages. With demand for air travel coming back in full force, airlines now can’t hire enough pilots.
For the most part the legacy carriers are okay, while regional airlines and ultra low cost carriers are in some cases having issues with hiring. Frontier Airlines is addressing this by trying to hire Australian nations who are eligible for the E-3 visa program.
With an E-3 visa, Australian citizens are allowed to work in the United States in specialty occupations. The visa is typically valid for two years, but can be renewed indefinitely.
According to Frontier Airlines’ job posting, the airline is looking for pilots with at least 1,500 hours of total flight time, though 2,500 hours of flight time are preferred. The airline is requesting 750 hours of multi-engine fixed wing time, plus 500 hours as pilot in command.
If in the coming months you’re flying Frontier Airlines and hear a pilot with an Australian accent making an announcement, this might explain why (of course there could also be pilots who aren’t part of this program who still have Australian accents).
US regional airlines have done this in the past
While I believe this is a new concept for Frontier Airlines, this isn’t the first time that a US airline has tried to find pilots through the E-3 visa program. Historically we’ve seen regional airlines in the US try to hire pilots this way. I know I’ve been on more than one SkyWest flight where I assumed a pilot may have been working as part of this arrangement, based on the accent.
Ultimately this seems like a win-win:
- The E-3 visa program is specifically for Australians, so it’s quite easy for pilots to be recruited this way
- Australia has historically had more pilots than good paying pilot jobs (given how small Australia’s population is), which is why you’ll find so many Australians working as pilots at Gulf carriers, etc.
- The Australian Dollar is significantly weaker than the US Dollar, so the pay at US airlines is also potentially quite lucrative for someone based in Australia
I’m always fascinated by ex-pat pilots
When I was a kid I always dreamed of being an airline pilot. Not only that, but I wanted to work for a foreign airline, and in particular Cathay Pacific. I never ended up pursuing that, and I guess that’s for the better, given the state of Hong Kong.
However, to this day I’m always fascinated by the hiring practices of various airlines, and especially how diverse the workforces are at some airlines. At Gulf carriers, Cathay Pacific, etc., you have pilots from all over the globe. I always listen to pilot announcements on this flight not just because I want to know what they’re saying, but so I can guess where they’re from.
But then there are some ex-pat arrangements that might come as a surprise. For example, I flew Kazakstan’s Air Astana several years back, and was surprised to have Mexican pilots. After doing some research, I learned that Air Astana specifically recruits in Mexico, and has tons of pilots from there. How interesting.
I also remember one Hainan Airlines flight I took where the captain had a particularly strong Texas accent. Hah.
US airlines are facing a major pilot shortage, and Frontier Airlines is trying to address that by hiring pilots from Australia under the E-3 visa program. This is something that we’ve seen regional carriers in the US do in the past, but I believe this is the first time that Frontier is doing this. I wonder if this will become a more widespread practice, as many airlines continue to deal with pilot shortages.
What do you make of Frontier’s creative strategy for hiring pilots?