Private jet operator Airshare is launching a new pilot retention and recruitment program that is primarily focused on captains, in the midst of increasing demand for private flying as well as to supply a growing fleet of aircraft for the Lenexa, Kansas-based fractional, charter, jet card, and aircraft management company.
Specifically, Airshare will be increasing its captain pay by an average increase of 25 percent across the board. It also will offer signing bonuses for pilots joining Airshare with Embraer Phenom type ratings, as well as establishing a bonus program for each hour a pilot flies over the standard 125 hours per quarter. First-year captains can earn up to $150,000. Airshare pilots generally work an eight-day-on, six-day-off schedule.
“We’re kind of going through this growth mode and as Covid hit demand has gone crazy," Airshare president and CEO John Owen told AIN. "We’re just constantly figuring out how we can better ourselves and be ready for the future.”
Earlier this year Airshare ordered three super-midsize Challenger 350s from Bombardier, the third one of which is expected to deliver this week. Airshare has an option for 17 more 350s, with some of the later deliveries upgrading to the new Challenger 3500, Owen said. With the three new Challenger 350s, its fractional fleet will total 27 aircraft, which includes Embraer Phenom 100s and 300/300Es. Additionally, the company manages 27 other business aircraft that are available for charter and its Embark jet cardholders.
Between the new aircraft and a 14 percent increase in new fractional owners and jet cardholders in the past few months—total jet cardholders have grown 60 to 70 percent in the past year—pilot recruitment and retention have taken on greater urgency for Airshare.
Owen said while first officers (FOs) also are getting a pay increase, it's not as substantial. “We’ve been really successful at hiring and growing the FOs and so we really concentrate on the captains at this point,” he said. “Our [FOs] upgrade pretty quickly, so they’re not there that long and we really wanted to point that career path. Airshare, way back when, used to be a business where we were happy if a pilot would stay four or five years. Now we’ve gotten to the point where we’d like to see some pilots retire here. That’s the focus we are taking going forward.”
Elements of the company’s new recruitment/retention program were born from informal and formal meetings with pilots individually and in groups to see where “the pain points are and what Airshare can do to make the [working] environment better,” Owen said. “And through all those conversations we came up with [this program].”
Airshare is also able to cast a wider net for captains because it is offering more base home cities. They include Chicago; Denver; St. Louis; Wichita; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Kansas City.
Owen said Airshare announced the new program to its pilots last week and plans to begin rolling it out this week. In addition, effective January 1, the company will begin offering a no-cost medical insurance option for not just its pilots, but all of its 220 employees.