If one viewed the airline hiring on a line graph it would look like a waves. Times go from great to bad and back to great. The early 90's were cold. Bad economy, fewer people flying. Then in the late 90's more people were flying and regional jets (good/bad depending on the topic) entered the scene. Airlines were hiring like gangbusters. Major airlines like United were hiring people with unheard of low time. Then came 9/11....furloughs and the hiring doors shut.
There was a small resurgence between 2006 and 2008 where airlines were hiring like crazy again. When I was in the middle of my training at ATP, pilots had their choice of airlines. Each pilot picked an airline based on what they needed/wanted.
Some picked an airline for the historically fast upgrade. Others went to an airline because of a historically friendly management. I chose my airline due to a long history and stable economic base. My how things change.
The quick upgrade airlines began furloughing. Heck airlines that have NEVER furloughed started furloughing. That friendly management became not so friendly. My airline with it's long history was about to shrink dramatically. The sky was falling! The sky was falling!
During Q2 of 2008 the hiring doors once again slammed shut and the exit door opened. Quite a few of my friends were suddenly on the street....furloughed just month's into their careers. Those that survived the furlough are where I am now...bottom of the list sitting reserve....happy we have a job.
We all made it through 2008 and hoped 2009 would be the turn around year. Doesn't look so good so far as more airlines are furloughing and parking more planes. Capacity cuts seem like they are being announced daily. Schedule planners have a tough job of planning schedules months in advance. If they plan right, the flights are profitable. If they plan wrong...well....the airline loses money.
Contrary to popular belief a full airplane does NOT mean the flight is profitable. Airlines can't just raise fares to make a profit, there is a breaking point where the flying public won't fly and will drive or not go at all. Some flights are flown at a loss, just to connect the passengers to a profitable flight. For a while when fuel prices were high (and still even today) every 50 seat regional jet was a money loser. The 37 and 44 seat regional jets (Embraer has 37, 44, and 50 seat jets) were even bigger money losers as they burned the same fuel as a 50 seater, but carried fewer passengers.
I have friends in flight school right now hoping 2009 is a turn around year. I hope 2009 is a turn around year. As it stands I have about 10% of the total number of pilots at my airline "under me". Thus if my airline announces a furlough as long as it's less than 9% I still have a job. Of course I might be commuting across the country....but I will still have a job.
I don't remember seeing ANY of this in the brochure for this job. HA!