In an extraordinary admission, a major pilots union has said people considering entering the profession shouldn’t even bother starting the years long training as they’ll likely be saddled with debt and have no chance of landing a job at the end of it.
The BALPA union, which represents pilots at British Airways and easyJet amongst others, issued the warning as it revealed that in Britain alone there are currently around 1,600 unemployed commercial pilots and as many as 10,000 unemployed across Europe.
The numbers worldwide are even greater with Middle East airlines shedding pilot roles – carriers that typically employed huge number of expatriate European pilots. And in Australia, the story of two Qantas pilots who have ended up driving busses for a living has gone viral.
And even for the pilots that remain, Wendy Pursey, head of careers services at BALPA explains that they are either working part time hours or on significantly reduced pay.
Around 200 trainees in flight training schools who were meant to be heading for careers with easyJet have instead found the job offers don’t exist anymore.
“This is not a positive picture for anyone whose heart is set on entering this profession,” Pursey explains. “There will be fewer jobs, with more people competing for each one even once this pandemic is over.”
“We urge potential pilots to get experience in another profession first which will postpone any training until the industry is in a more robust shape, provide additional skills and experience and also give them another avenue to fall back on,” she continued, saying it would be “irresponsible” not to warn potential pilots.
BALPA has largely succeeded in preventing the bulk of threatened pilot job losses in the U.K. but hundreds have still found themselves unemployed. Many of whom fresh into their careers and still paying off loans for their training.
And any hope of a recovery will have to wait. A fresh lockdown in the U.K. and a ban on holidaymakers leaving the country has led to British Airways and easyJet slashing their schedules. On Friday, Heathrow Airport announced it would return to single runway operations because there simply wasn’t enough traffic to justify operating both of its two runways.
No doubt the winter will be hard but it could take a lot longer than six months before airlines can even consider to start hiring pilots again.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.