Pilot pays extra for vaccinations

Pilot Company announced Thursday it will offer a one-time, $75 incentive to team members who choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The incentive will be available to all Pilot Company hourly team members, professional drivers and general managers in the United States and Canada.

"Our team members and drivers have been on the front lines keeping our travel centers going and the economy moving since the start of the pandemic," said Shameek Konar, the CEO of the Knoxville-based truck stop chain. "Now, as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more available, we hope to make it easier for our team members who choose to get vaccinated."

Pilot Company is not mandating any team members to get the vaccine. On the recommendations of federal and state medical experts, Pilot Company encourages team members to get vaccinated based on the advice of their primary care physician.


Easter spending reaches record high

Consumers plan to spend an average of $179.70 this Easter, the highest figure on record, according to surveys by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

A total of 79 percent of Americans said they will celebrate the holiday and spend a collective $21.6 billion.

"With new stimulus funds from the President's American Rescue Plan, positive trends in vaccinations and growing consumer confidence, there is a lot of momentum heading into the Spring and holiday events like Easter," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "Many have figured out how to celebrate holidays safely with family and that is reflected in consumer spending this Easter."

Easter gifts, food and candy are the biggest drivers of growth this year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $31.06 on gifts (up from $27.91 in 2020), $52.50 on food (up from $51.76) and $25.22 on candy (up from $23.30).


30-year mortgage rate stays below 3.2 percent

Mortgage rates were virtually unchanged this week, but signs indicate that the housing market is constrained by higher prices and low inventory.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the benchmark 30-year loan rate was 3.18% this week, up from 3.17% last week. A year ago, the rate was 3.33%.

The 15-year loan, popular among those who refinance their mortgages, was unchanged from last week at 2.45%. A year ago it was 2.82%.

"Although mortgage rates remain low, we are beginning to see a pullback by those looking to enter the housing market," said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "In fact, homebuyer demand has gone from 25% above pre-COVID levels at the start of the year, when mortgage rates hit record lows, to 8% above pre-COVID levels today."


United Airlines hiring 300 pilots

United Airlines said Thursday it plans to hire about 300 pilots, another sign that airlines feel more confident that a recent increase in travel will continue.

The airline plans to start by hiring pilots who received conditional job offers or had a class for new hires canceled last year, when the industry was slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

"With vaccination rates increasing and travel demand trending upwards, I'm excited to share that United will resume the pilot hiring process that was halted last year," Bryan Quigley, Chicago-based United's senior vice president of flight operations, told employees.

Nearly 1,000 United pilots have retired or taken voluntary leave since September. Federal payroll aid to airlines blocked furloughs. Quigley said United's need for new pilots will depend on the airline's recovery from the pandemic.

Airlines report that bookings have increased in recent weeks, and the government says at least 1 million travelers a day have gone through airport checkpoints for the past three weeks. Still, U.S. air travel remains down nearly half from the same period in 2019.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner