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Cheap tricks

In the past years, the industry couldn’t care less about young pilots entering the profession. They were seen as “cash cows” by the training schools, certain airlines and broker agencies. In fact, a whole new industry was born that can churn out many more young pilots than the industry actually needs. Once these young & enthusiastic people found one of the rare jobs, they had to pay their type rating, their recurrent training and some even had to pay for gaining experience, as the numerous Pay-to-Fly practices have shown.

But now that the times are changing & the industry urgently needs young pilots, we see the negative consequences of this: young people look through the blunt promises of the pilot training schools, they look behind the nebulous promises of the airline industry. How realistic is it to dream of this profession, while the online forums of pilots are full of stories around fatigue, extreme workload, poor pay & precarious contracts? Young people have a choice today and they have demands. They want secure employment, with adequate control over their private life and – yes – they want a quality work-life balance. When I asked my own daughters about their understanding of their future, they told me that the airline industry is not one of their options: too little control over free time, too stressful!

Young people look through the blunt promises of the pilot training schools & the nebulous promises of the airline industry.

But – unfortunately to some managers – most of the “new business models” in the industry are based on an oversupply of pilots. They simply won’t work without it. So these airlines are now looking for new methods to provide this oversupply. How? By training cadets cheaper & faster. But cheaper and faster will automatically mean poorer quality & lower standards! Is that what the industry needs right now, an industry that relies on high safety standards and well-trained pilots? Clearly not!

Nevertheless, some airlines and training organisations are drawing the picture of an imminent pilot shortage that is threatening the cheap connectivity in Europe. And the big wish is that – to counter this alleged pilot shortage training standards are lowered, rather than strengthened. If you can’t get enough applicants, just lower the bar! But attracting the right people for the profession and training them up to the best standard was already an issue in the past, and I’m afraid, it will be even more in the future. Airlines need to understand that they do have a responsibility, not only to their passengers but also to their staff. Attracting the right staff is one of these. Consequently, airlines will have to make this profession attractive again, otherwise their business models are endangered – especially the cheap ones!