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Turkish Airlines is Now Poaching Etihad’s Pilots As UAE Expat Flight Crew Look to Jump Ship

Turkish Airlines is Now Poaching Etihad’s Pilots As UAE Expat Flight Crew Look to Jump Ship

Turkish Airlines is Now Poaching Etihad's Pilots As UAE Expat Flight Crew Look to Jump Ship

Turkish Airlines is sending its recruiters overseas next month for a recruitment Open Day in Abu Dhabi as part of an effort to hire experienced First Officers – the move is seen as an attempt to poach expat pilots currently working at struggling Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.  Sources within the airline say many pilots have been actively exploring their options over the last year and may be receptive to an offer from a competitor if the conditions are right.

Etihad has managed to attract talented flight crew from around the world but its remuneration package has failed to keep up with what is being offered by rival airlines – especially fast-growing airlines in mainland China.  There are many similarities between the Etihad and Turkish Airlines aircraft fleet which will make Etihad’s experienced expat flight crew a desirable workforce to poach for the Istanbul-based carrier.

It’s no secret that Etihad’s current financial situation is anything but dire – cost-cutting efforts have managed to reduce the losses to a certain extent but there’s no chance of Etihad getting out of the red anytime soon.  The airline has been forced to cut routes, reduce its expansion plans and consider deferring or even cancelling aircraft orders.

At the same time, Etihad’s pilots have been forced to take unpaid leave, and work under less generous conditions than before – especially when it comes to trip lengths and rest periods.  Some of Etihad’s pilots even took up an offer to go work for the rival Dubai-based Emirates for a two-year period as part of a leave of absence scheme dreamt up by the two airlines.

Like other UAE-based airlines, Etihad has been trying to shake off its reliance on expat pilots through its Emiratisation programmes. Photo Credit: Etihad Airways
Like other UAE-based airlines, Etihad has been trying to shake off its reliance on expat pilots through its Emiratisation programmes. Photo Credit: Etihad Airways

The programme, although unusual, had mutual benefits for both airlines – Etihad could temporarily reduce its pilot workforce and hopefully let them return when market conditions improved without the need to hire entirely new staff.  At the same time, Emirates was forced to cancel a number of flights over the summer because of an alleged pilot shortage so the programme was a quick and easy way to boost its flight crew numbers.

Emirates is said to have lost a significant number of pilots to competitors in the last year.  Expat flight crew have been enticed by promises of big paychecks and lavish benefits that Emirates have refused to counter – in fact, Emirates’ president, Sir Tim Clark even said many pilots might come back once they realised that life wasn’t so good in say, China.

Turkish Airlines has bounced back from a series of deadly terror attacks, including one at its Istanbul hub, as well as an attempted coup two years ago.  The airline was forced to ground a number of planes as passengers initially shied away from the carrier but since then, passengers have returned and Turkish is reporting healthy profits and continued expansion.

Pilot recruiters will be at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Yas Island on 12th December.  Two information sessions will take place between 10:00am to 12:30pm and between 2pm to 4:30pm.  Experienced first officers who are interested in attending the event should first register by emailing their details to: pilotrecruiment@thy.com

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