With peak shipping season approaching FedEx Corp is offering retirement-age pilots bonuses of $40,000 to as much as $110,000 to keep them flying through the busy season. The bonuses were included in the latest contract with the pilot union but had previously gone unreported.
The FedEx pilot contract which was signed in late 2015 includes a calculation that allows for bonuses of up to $110,000 per pilot. These bonuses are calculated based on a portion of a pilot’s salary over the 24 months prior to his or her retirement date. To get the bonus, a pilot has to provide at least 12 months’ notice of the day he or she will retire on Dec. 31 of a given future year.
FedEx expects to lose 150-200 of its pilots this year – and around the same number annually for the foreseeable future as more approach the FAA mandatory retirement age of 65. “FedEx Express is well staffed with pilots at this time, however we’re always looking toward the future,” said FedEx spokeswoman Bonny Harrison. Harrison declined to comment on pilot pay or its use of bonuses to manage the timing of retirements.
FedEx and UPS reported peak business in 2016 and 2017 and plan to hire a total of 155,000 temporary workers for the 2018 peak season which is projected to increase as much as 4.8 percent.
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FedEx Planning For Pilot Shortage
The pilot bonuses are a sign of a global pilot shortage which is already squeezing the operations of passenger airlines. Mainline FedEx is not directly effected by the shortage yet though they must be aware of the impact on their feeder operations – which are vital to completing the FedEx system.
FedEx Feeder operations include 46 ATR twin-engine turboprops and 239 Cessna Caravans. FedEx has 150 additional airplanes on order planned for Feeder operations.
FedEx launched the “Purple Runway” this year to bulk up its ranks, recruiting college graduates with pilot licenses for jobs with its feeder airlines. FedEx Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith said the goal of the program is“to ensure a full pipeline of pilots for us and the industry at large.”