Older pilots face decisions on early retirement offers

Forbes has reported US senior airline pilots, typically those between the ages of 60 and 65, are approaching deadlines on making decisions on early out offers, the news source said.

Early retirement offers could put as much as USD 982,000 into the pilots´ pockets now, while potentially saving the jobs of younger pilots and possibly saving carriers from bankruptcy.

Should they accept such early out offers, eligible pilots could see all that money — and the additional benefits like free travel and extended insurance benefits that come with that early retirement cash – vanish. If their airline enters bankruptcy, or ceases to operate entirely before those pilots who accept the early retirement offers reach 65, any money still owed them at that time likely would never be paid.

Should lots of older pilots not accept the early retirement deals, it would necessitate laying off thousands more younger pilots, and help push their airlines into bankruptcy, with all the attendant challenges and financial hits to pilots, both active and retirees.

Older pilots at Southwest Airlines must decide whether to accept what appears to be the most generous offer in the industry for them to retire early. The maximum amount of cash a Southwest pilot retiring with such incentives could get out of the deal would be USD 982,230, according to calculations by KitDarby.com Aviation Consulting. That assumes a pilot has five full years before reaching the federally mandated retirement age for airline pilots, 65.

Alaska Airlines´ oldest captains face a deadline on whether to accept early-out offers that, at maximum, would pay them roughly half of what Southwest´s pilots would get in cash. For Delta pilots, the offers would max out around USD 740,000 in cash plus benefits. The early-out offer made to American´s pilots, worth a maximum of USD 715,599 in cash, already has closed, but the company has not yet announced how many accepted the deal. United Airlines officials have said they are preparing a similar offer to their older pilots but have not yet revealed its details. Most smaller carriers also have extended offers, albeit less lucrative ones, to their older plots.