United Airlines Became the First Major U.S. Carrier to Open Its Own Flight School

United Airlines hopes to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030.

Students at the United Aviate Academy train for their future pilot careers
Photo: PRNewsfoto/United Airlines

In January 2022, United Airlines officially became the only major U.S. carrier to own a flight training school, with the grand opening of its United Aviate Academy. It was a historic moment for United Airlines, as the company works toward its goal of training 5,000 new pilots at the school by 2030.

The carrier is specifically aiming for at least half of its new trainees to be women or people of color in an effort to diversify this specific segment of the airline industry. United is already well on its way to reaching that benchmark, with 80% of the inaugural class of future pilots identifying as women or people of color.

"Our pilots are the best in the industry and have set a high standard of excellence," said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, as he welcomed the new students to the United Aviate Academy. "Recruiting and training even more people who have that same level of talent, motivation, and skill is the right thing to do and will make us an even better airline."

Kirby was joined by United president Brett Hart and Federal Aviation Administration deputy administrator Brad Mims, as well as other government officials, at the inaugural event, where they discussed ways to make the pilot career path more accessible. United's plans include targeted recruiting, strategic partnerships, and scholarship and financial aid solutions.

"I couldn't be prouder of this first group of students and look forward to meeting the thousands of talented individuals who will pass through these doors in the years to come," Kirby added.

The first class of United Aviate Academy students will undergo a year-long training program. Once complete, the students will move on to building their flight and leadership skills through the academy's partner universities, professional flight training organizations, and United Express carriers — all steps toward becoming an official United Airlines pilot.

"As a United pilot for more than 32 years, it's exciting to see these new students earning their wings and beginning their aviation careers, and I'm looking forward to them joining me on the flight deck one day," said United chief pilot Mary Ann Schaffer in a press statement. "We need more pilots and a more diverse pool of young aviators, and United Aviate Academy will help us achieve both goals."

For more information, visit the United Aviate Academy website.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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