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Passengers expected to feel impact of worldwide pilot shortage

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A worldwide pilot shortage could make it tough for you to book your next trip. 

Delta just announced they are looking to hire 8,000 pilots over the next decade but they aren't the only ones feeling the impact.

David Upham has been flying planes for the last 20 years. CBS 58 joined him on a flight over Milwaukee. 

"What you're seeing is a particular generation of pilots aging out. You reach the age of 65 and you can't fly airlines anymore," said Upham. 

A large group of retiring pilots is only part of the problem. Over the next 20 years, Boeing predicts that North America will need to hire 206,000 new pilots to keep up with demand, 790,000 worldwide. 

"You're seeing greater wealth throughout the world. As people get more disposable income, they want to use that to travel," Upham told CBS 58 News. 

UWM Economics Professor Dr. James Peoples says the military, commercial airlines, and freight are all competing for pilots. 

"As a customer, as a passenger, they will feel it because they won't have ease of access. They won't have all the flights they need to get to where they want in a flexible manner," Dr. Peoples said.

People says with fewer pilots it could make booking your next flight more challenging. 

"Smaller towns and smaller cities are going to find they are going to have fewer flights or maybe no flights at all," Upham said. 

That's already the case in La Crosse, which the Regional Airline Association says is now offering fewer flights. The group also says the pilot shortage could result in 300 planes being parked by 2020. 

Flights could also become more expensive. 

"Fares will go up because there's less service. There's less pilots and pilots are going to demand more pay so that pay is going to be passed on to us, the passenger," Peoples said. 

Air Wisconsin's website says they're offering up to $57,000 in pilot bonuses. Becoming a pilot isn't easy. Tom Titley has been flying since the 1950's. 

"It's hard work. You got to put in a lot of hours and get a lot of ratings and it's very costly," said Titley. 

To work for the big airlines like Delta, United, American, you need to have at least 1,500 hours of training, roughly two and a half months of flying. 

Upham says Wisconsin Aviation is seeing plenty of students interested in flying, but because of the pilot shortage, they are having a hard time keeping instructors. 

"Our teachers get hours and move on,' said Upham. 

Although some pilots working for the big airlines can make six-figure salaries, pilots just starting their career often start with low pay. 

"A lot of folks are saying 'I don't have the money to pay for that' and 'I don't have the time to put into getting this' and then when I get in, 'I'm going to be a regional flight pilot and they don't pay much?' It's not worth it for them," says Peoples. 

Despite the challenges, Lake Geneva resident Quin Wessels is working on getting her flight instructor license right now. 

"It's hard work but it's very rewarding and being in the air, there's no feeling like it," Wessels says. 

If you need to book a flight, to avoid higher costs and fewer flight options, experts recommend booking your travel as early as you can.

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