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15,000 European Pilot Jobs Have Already Been Lost and the Outlook is “Even Worse”

15,000 European Pilot Jobs Have Already Been Lost and the Outlook is “Even Worse”

easyJet has announced plans to recruit 1,000 cabin crew and pilots for its expanded operations at Berlin Tegel. Photo Credit: easyJet

As many as 15,000 pilot jobs across Europe have already been permanently lost or threatened as a result of the Corona crisis according to the European Cockpit Association (ECA) who have been compiling a running tally. The union warns, however, that the full extent of the “devastation is still unknown” and that the “outlook is even worse”.

The worst affected airline is the financially embattled low-cost airline Norwegian which recently won a shareholder and government bailout to avoid going into liquidation. As many as 1,600 pilots were made unemployed when the airline pushed its partly owned crewing agencies in Denmark, Sweden and Finland into bankruptcy. Nearly 500 more pilots at the airline have been threatened with redundancy.

And despite deals to save some pilots jobs in certain countries like the UK, the continent’s largest low-cost airline Ryanair is believed to have threatened over 850 pilots with dismissal. Its main competitor, easyJet is said to be eyeing as many as 727 pilots job losses.

The ECA has been particularly critical of easyJet, saying the Luton-based airline had “discredited” itself over its redundancy plans. Of most concern is a proposal to select pilots for redundancy based on how much sick leave they’ve taken. Pilot representatives say the decision could put flight safety at risk because flight crew will be more likely to report for work when they are ill and their judgement impaired.

As many as 6,500 pilot job losses couldn’t even be attributed to spedific airlines because of what the ECA describes as atypical contracts where a pilot works for an airline but is classed as being self-employed. Thousands of pilots working these contracts have already been let go without any consultation or notice period.

Both Wizz Air and Ryanair’s polish Buzz subsidiary are said to have laid-off ‘self-employed’ pilots “almost immediately” after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across Europe.

The ECA was one of the first organisations to predict mass job losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, describing the crisis as the Gulf war, the SARS epidemic, 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis all rolled into one. “The airline industry that emerges from this crisis, will not look like the one that went into it,” wrote the ECA’s president, Capt. Jon Horne in March.

A separate tally of aviation job losses by Bloomberg estimated that on a global scale 400,000 cabin crew and pilot jobs had already been lost. The vast majority of redundancies are set to happen in the United States with many job losses or furloughs expected to come in October unless Congress passes a six-month extension to a payroll support program.

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