Southwest Airlines Co CEO Bob Jordan said on Thursday that an industry-wide shortage of pilots is expected to last for three years due to the challenges carriers face in training new aviators.
Jordan, speaking at the Bernstein Conference, said the Dallas-based airline has about 40 planes that it currently cannot fly because of pilot constraints.
"The constraint is really the ability to put them through the training centre because it's full," he said.
Analysts at Jefferies estimate the US is 10,000 pilots short.
American Airlines has said it has as much as 50 underused mainline jets and about 150 regional aircraft grounded as the company does not have enough trained pilots.
Jordan expects the supply of pilots to improve by the end of the year, allowing the airline to get the planes off the ground.
The company is also grappling with Boeing's aircraft delivery delays, forcing it to rein in capacity growth plans.
Southwest, one of the biggest customers of Boeing's Max planes, expects 70 deliveries of the 737-8 jet this year instead of the planned 90 after the US planemaker disclosed a manufacturing issue with some of the workhorse aircraft.
Jordan said Southwest needs a "stable" jet delivery schedule to plan its capacity.
"The biggest thing that we're working on is reflowing the order book with Boeing, so that the deliveries are steady, measured, known, we can count on them," he said.