DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — On many trips, it's the moment you reach your destination and see someone you've traveled for that makes the journey worthwhile.
"I’m always amazed at when I’m just at the airport waiting to pick up someone that I know just seeing so many different people being gathered at one single place for so many different reasons,” said Paul Beliando.
It’s those moments that Beliando cannot wait to make happen.
“My passion has always been aviation. I knew from the age of 5 years old that I wanted to be a pilot," said Beliando.
He is a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, one of the top places to learn if your dream is to fly.
It’s a passion that the pandemic had grounded for many.
“At the beginning, I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit disheartening. It was like, ‘wow I worked really hard to get to this point,’ and it’s almost like at a standstill," said Madeline Knause.
Last summer, Bloomberg reported 400,000 jobs had been lost at airlines as COVID-19 kept passengers home.
“Getting back to doing what they were born to do, you know, it’s an exciting time for them, and they’re going to provide great customer service to the traveling public," said Embry-Riddle Professor Kenneth Byrnes.
Byrnes says Embry-Riddle has programs that provide pilots to nearly every major airline. The school recently announced a partnership with Frontier.
"Companies I’m talking to (are) looking at hiring 500 pilots between now and December," Byrnes said.
Along with those in the cockpit, airlines are looking to fill other positions to meet the demand of an industry seeing travelers again.
Over the next decade, it’s projected the number of flight attendants will increase by more than 20,000, jobs where the median pay is about $60,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I know a lot of people were a bit pessimistic, but I always kept a positive attitude. I knew like everything that COVID was temporary," Beliando said.
Beyond the pandemic, a wave of retirements is expected to boost the demand.
"Obviously, you don’t want people to retire out, but at the same time, it kind of brings like a new wave, a new generation of pilots and everything, too," Knause said.
Travel has yet to fully get back to where it was before the pandemic, but numbers show more people going through TSA checkpoints, getting closer to pre-pandemic numbers.
You can see this industry gaining its power again, not just by the long lines, but the arrivals now that life for many isn’t at as much of a distance.
“And I think it’s kind of magical in some sense that aviation brings everyone together and allows everyone to kind of go do different things. On one single flight, there are so many people doing different things," Beliando said.