United Airlines to hire 15,000 in preparation for busy summer

Airlines are in hiring mode after struggling to keep up with the significant return to travel following the pandemic

United Airlines is preparing for a busy summer travel season with an extensive hiring plan.

The carrier is planning to hire thousands of new workers this year.

In the first four months of the year, United said it hired 7,000 new workers and plans to hit 15,000 new hires by year's end – which would match the number of last year's hires.

The airline began the year with 93,000 workers and said it plans to add 50,000 by 2026.

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United jet

A United Airlines jetliner lifts off from Denver International Airport. The airline says it hired 7,000 new workers in the first four months of this year and plans to hit 15,000 new hires by year's end. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski / AP Newsroom)

"We are in hiring mode here at United Airlines," Kate Gebo, the company's executive vice president of human resources, told reporters. 

The airline said it already has enough pilots to operate the peak summer schedule.

Airlines got caught understaffed when air travel bounced back from the depths of the pandemic faster than anticipated. Shortages of pilots and flight attendants contributed to a jump in the rates of canceled and delayed flights last year.

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United Airlines plane

United Airlines added almost 150 new flights this past winter. (iStock / iStock)

Airline-industry jobs have jumped by more than 117,000 — an increase of 32% — to more than 480,000 as of this February, according to the latest figures available from the Transportation Department. 

That is a 5% increase over the pre-pandemic peak.

Delta Air Lines hasn't disclosed its 2023 hiring plans, but CEO Ed Bastian has said the airline has hired nearly 20,000 workers since the start of 2021.

Southwest Airlines planned to hire 7,000 workers this year, but are reducing that number because the airline hasn’t received as many new Boeing jets as it expected.

United flight board

Travelers check departure screens for their flight status at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh / AP Newsroom)

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United executives said they plan to hire 2,300 pilots this year and expect nearly 500 to retire.

Federal law requires airline pilots to retire by age 65.

United is using career fairs, including one in Houston on Thursday, to find workers. 

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United also announced 3,800 of its new jobs this year will be in Chicago, where the company is headquartered.

Airline executives said they will add another 2,300 in Denver, 2,100 in Houston, 2,000 in Newark, New Jersey, and 1,600 in San Francisco.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.