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Nationwide pilot shortage leading to fewer flights at Billings airport

Posted at 5:24 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 15:54:39-04

BILLINGS- — A nationwide pilot shortage is affecting scheduling and forcing cancellations, and things are no different at the Billings-Logan International Airport.

“There were some airlines that were very aggressive in terms of reducing their staff during the pandemic by offering incentives or retirement packages and stuff and they were very successful at getting people to leave their ranks so that they could reduce their payroll costs while they weren’t making any revenue during the pandemic. Subsequently, now they have to play catch up the other way,” said Kevin Ploehn, the director of aviation and transit at the Billings-Logan International Airport.

Flights began being cut as soon as summer was over, and Ploehn added that starting in November, it could get even worse.

“I think every airport in the state has had some impact right now,” said Ploehn.

United Airlines typically offers five to six flights a day out of Billings during the summer months but Brian Beam, the airline’s general manager in Billings, says that’s been cut to just three with the busy holiday season right around the corner.

“We get into the holiday season and we’re floating some things out there for Thanksgiving, but we’ll probably stay pretty close to that same number and we’ll probably stay in that ballpark right up until Christmas. If we see strong bookings going into the holiday season, they’ll probably add some flights in,” said Beam.

Beam said that it's best to buy tickets early if you’re looking for a flight close to the holidays.