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Spirit Airlines sees no short-term pilot shortage

Passengers wait in line at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago November 24, 2010. REUTERS/Fran
Passengers wait in line at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago November 24, 2010. REUTERS/Fran

By Karen Jacobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chief executive of discount carrier Spirit Airlines said on Thursday he has no concerns about pilot availability in United States for next couple of years, but is worried about staffing in the longer term.

"We're actively hiring pilots now, and we are currently not having a problem attracting qualified pilots," Spirit's Ben Baldanza told Reuters in an interview at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's aviation summit in Washington.

The Miramar, Florida carrier has "a pretty strong pipeline of pilot availability" right now, he said.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office warned in February that most regional airlines are having a hard time finding pilots because of low wages and new rules mandating more experience for entry-level aviators.

Baldanza said Spirit hopes to acquire gates at airports in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles that American Airlines Group agreed to divest as part of its merger agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

"We've put our case forward and that process is being reviewed now, and we're hopeful that we're able to at least get some of those assets," he said.

"I would be very disappointed if we win nothing out of that. I would be surprised if we won all of it."

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs, editing by Ros Krasny and Susan Heavey)

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