British Airways pilots may soon be based in the Persian Gulf city of Doha and flying planes for Qatar Airways if a unique and first of its kind secondment opportunity between the two airlines goes ahead.
Pilots at the Heathrow-based airline have been approached to see whether they would be willing to go work for Qatar Airways for around six months over the 2021/2022 winter season when flights out of London are expected to hit a seasonal lull.
The opportunity, according to an internal memo, is for up to 40 Boeing 777 pilots to go fly the planes on behalf of Qatar Airways. The opportunities would be evenly split between Captains and First Officers.
Discussions between the two airlines are still at an early stage and BA warns there are “significant complexities” involved that could scupper the secondments from going ahead.
If the two carriers can come to an agreement, the plan would be for the pilots to temporarily relocate to Doha. Their contracts and seniority would be maintained and they would continue being paid by British Airways.
Presumably, under such an agreement, pilots would continue to be covered by British tax laws.
Although the pilots would be at home in a Boeing 777 flight deck, it remains unclear how much training the pilots would need to bring them up to speed with Qatar Airways policies and procedures, as well as additional training for different destinations than they are used to.
British Airways has told pilots they would be “integrated” into the Qatar Airways operation so that they would be working alongside flight crew employed directly by Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways owns a 35 per cent stake in the parent company of British Airways and the two airlines are part of the oneworld alliance. In 2017, Qatar Airways wet-leased several short-haul aircraft and crew to operate flights on behalf of BA during a cabin crew strike.
Both airlines significantly reduced the size of their respective workforces during the pandemic but the demand for pilots is expected to increase rapidly over the next year and could put pressure on smaller airlines that are unable to attract or retain enough pilots.
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.