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Business

Pilot shortage grounds more flights at Japan's Air Do

More recruitment, training needed amid forecast for high demand in Asia by 2030

Japanese carrier Air Do, based on the northern island of Hokkaido, has suffered a wave of retirements by pilots.

TOKYO -- Japanese regional carrier Air Do becomes the latest airline struck by the global shortage of pilots, saying Thursday it has canceled 26 flights scheduled for February after already grounding 34 trips this month.

The new cancellations cover Feb. 1-7 flights between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and New Chitose Airport near Sapporo, affecting some 600 passengers who held reservations.

The Hokkaido-based airline suffered a wave of retirements in August and October by pilots capable of operating small aircraft. Air Do has increased hiring as well as training of co-pilots for promotion to captain. But the lengthy training time prompted the carrier to cancel the February flights, run with code-share partner All Nippon Airways, part of ANA Holdings.

Air Do plans no further cancellations in its fiscal second half beyond these two sets, a spokesperson said.

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair in September announced the cancellation of a huge number of flights, citing a lack of pilots. In Japan, Peach Aviation and Vanilla Air reduced their schedules in 2014 for the same reason. Continued flight cancellations would not only inconvenience travelers but also hamper Japan in its goal of drawing 40 million international visitors in 2020.

Japan's commercial aviation industry fears a serious shortage may hit around 2030, when a generation of pilots in the country is expected to retire en masse.

The global airline industry will need 980,000 pilots in 2030, more than double the 2010 level, the International Civil Aviation Organization estimates. Meeting this number will require the training of at least 50,000 pilots yearly. An annual shortfall of more than 8,000 is anticipated.

The Asia-Pacific region faces an especially dire problem, forecast to require some 230,000 pilots in 2030 -- more than quadruple the number seen in 2010. Pilots in Asia are expected to account for 23% of the global tally in 2030, up from 11% in 2010.

Airlines are rushing to secure personnel. Singapore Airlines said in August it will create a pilot training center with a Canadian partner. Japan Airlines has developed a training program with Airbus that includes augmented reality, so that cadets can learn without actually getting into an aircraft. The Japanese company also lifted pilot pay last fiscal year between 1 million yen and 2 million yen ($8,863 to $17,726) as an incentive.

With a policy of steadily hiring 50 to 60 pilots a year, All Nippon Airways dispatches lecturers to Tokai University's training program. A group company is actively taking on non-Japanese pilots as well.

(Nikkei)

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