As the years slip by time speeds up, we must all be aware of that, even if we haven’t seen it. One of the things this allows you to do as you get more ‘senior’ is look back on the way the fate and opportunity’s cards fell for you, how you played them. What you can’t see of course is how the deck is stacked or where sleight of hand bent your fortune. On our way across our blue planet’s Atlantic Ocean a tale was recounted to me, one perhaps all to familiar to many of the way new entrants are being ‘assisted’ into our ranks. I refer of course to professional aviation and I reflect on my good fortune as I write of this tawdry situation.
Flight training for a professional licence has always been expensive, scrape together the £100k (US $162k) and you are well on your way, the extras, like many things in life and if you are being honest with your calculator, can double that figure as you ride from tyro into the right had seat of a Boeing or an Airbus of any size. How then should we regard those training organizations who ‘facilitate’ the transition from their light twins into the airline system?
I brought a NZ Airlines captain/IFALPA ‘wheel’ (a very interesting man to listen to) to Singapore from Sydney on his way to the UK for a conference. During conversation with him it emerged that there is a growing worldwide concern that there will be a large under-supply of pilots for the industry coming over the horizon. He quoted the example; last year the USAF trained more UAV pilots than they did FW pilots.
The US carriers are paying their pilots far less than they did, pilot supply is becoming critical in some commuter sectors as those who have been furloughed earlier or have trouble making ends meet are turning elsewhere for their daily crust. Having (re)established a decent income they look at the daily grind of the commuter pilot and say…. “No thanks, I don’t need that any more having spent too much time and effort in the new day job to get knocked back again.”
Predictabubble? And the answer to the problem is…..
I suspect many of us over the years have had mixed experiences with companies that offer pilot recruitment services. We have seen these agencies cut a lucrative position for themselves by sitting between the employer and the pilot. This was particularly the case at one stage in the Middle East.
Additionally there has (in the UK at least) grown a mini industry that takes newly minted aviators and matches them (after a little training) to an airline. The airline is happy because it recruits a screened ‘product’ and doesn’t pay a lot for it, the agency makes a return from the individual in a form of tax from the pilot’s new salary.
Given that starting salaries are not spectacular and the additional training costs incurred add to their already cumbersome debt load, I wonder who this arrangement suits best and where the opportunity for exploitation lies?
We must not tar them all with the same brush but the whole idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth; the jobs were always going to be there anyway and someone pays for convenience – guess who. It is easy to see how the middle men floated to the surface and got their proposition swallowed. Though they probably take some finding, not all ‘Employment Executives’ wear pencil line mustaches, have sharp suits and speak far to quickly whilst leading you by the elbow to the contract. Caution and reading the small print is a valuable skill in aviation like everywhere else.
With the pilot job market tightening with recessional pressure the position of those who have invested in training can become precarious. The overall effect on the profession can hardly be positive as desperation forces the conditions of an ‘employment opportunity’ through the floor for the new arrival onto the flight deck. With employers cutting back on training and veterans retiring things will change with a vengeance when and if the market turns around as has happened in the past. The question remains… when?
How refreshing then to see the start of a fight back. A website where employers can post their opportunities and prospective employees can see what’s available and make their pitch. If this enterprising website can do the legwork and tug together the pieces of string that connect employers to prospective flight crew, they might just have us queuing up.
Perhaps adding value for the guys on each end of the string is the tough nut to crack as it introduces costs – but good luck! If you need a job… try;
Just weeks after announcing profits, Virgin Atlantic staff finds themselves staring down the shotgun barrel with capacity cuts that mean almost 10% of its workforce could soon be out of a job. So much for profitability!
This article displays a foresight missing from a number of commentators. How does it go? The truth will out eventually despite bluster and misinformation.
The next few weeks at British Airways will not be pleasant, the leadership team and departmental managers have been negotiating hard with unions to meet the challenges of the downturn. The truth of the predicament has not been lost on those in Flight Operations where a clear understanding seems to exist of the problem. Our hope is that the same clarity is evident elsewhere.
Trust is always a tough thing to establish after it has been lost in any industry and these are times that test it to breaking point. I still cannot get over the response that one US carrier’s pilots had to a particularly gloom laden meeting. The carriers leadership team confronted the pilots union just after 9/11 with a demand to chop salaries and benefits by significant percentage points. The guys took the news to their members and they responded positively. If this was going to save the airline from certain death then a sacrifice had to be made.
They took the deal as bad as it was on the chin. Shortly afterwards the airline’s leadership team awarded themselves a $340M bonus for the productivity they had negotiated – the pilots were predictably furious but the deal had been done.
Trust is pivotal and by telling the story above I do not suggest for one minute that our Leadership Team have such moves in mind, but I wonder if that particular US carrier is ever in the brown stuff again, will its pilots respond to the clarion call to help out? What will they do when times improve and the bottom line swells?
Either way the chances are that the LT in place at the time will be long gone with their money and the smiling faces across the table will point towards their predecessors and say, “Hey guys, that was history, you have a new team now” as the sun glints off an immaculate set of pearly white teeth.
Let us all hope that with our new reality in the world we can see a day coming where we are told the truth and dealt with fairly. Who wants to return to the ’70s industrial scene – not me!
Lufthansa have developed a novel way of dealing with the problem of cyclic demand and soft trading environments.
Down route social gatherings are fun, not always but more often than not. Here in Singapore last night we had a particularly lively conversation around a circular, noisy Food Court table. With upcoming industrial action pending, the Terminal 5 issue and other home goals, the response to Open Skies was a hot topic and the debate flashed across the sizzling prawns between the differing points of view. The majority was firm however…
This industry of ours has been changing rapidly over the last few years; sure, I know it’s been changing since time began, but the process took a kick start acceleration from 9/11 onwards that just has not stopped. I won’t trot out the influences, we all know them, but wars, disease, financial turmoil and new and innovative market arrivals have all brought out the best and the worst in the serried ranks of our wide community.
Well, BA have painted their first aircraft destined for Open Skies. It looks quite smart though we wonder when it will take to the air and exactly who will fly it. Pilots have been recruited by OS and plans made, it remains to be seen how well BA and BALPA get on when next they meet across the negotiating table, a stretch of wood that is currently hundreds of meters wide and several miles long.
The stakes were raised recently when BALPA made the decision to re-ballot for industrial action. The feeling around the bazaars is that there will be an even higher vote in favour of industrial action at the second ballot than there was at the first. Not that BAs pilots have decided that industrial conflict is a fine idea, quite the contrary, it is seen as an appalling option. Sometimes though, it is necessary to fight for what you believe in and stand firm.
I don’t have a Polo, I bought a Golf Plus. I love it and this add too. It kina’ represents how some of us might feel given the pending industrial action at the company I work for. Well, you gotta’ laugh haven’t you… at least occasionally.
Pilots are expensive, some are very expensive. The temptation to use assets such as these to the limit of their capacity for work must be irresistible for companies looking for ever greater productivity to enhance their bottom line. What interests me and others, my mates to be frank, is where exactly does the line lie between sensible utilization and flagrant disregard for the welfare of the individuals being exploited. A powerful word and not one I use at the extreme of its meaning, but exploiting assetts has become a bit of a fine art… here and there.
That there is a shortage of pilots around the world is now a ‘known’. The feedback from pilots organisations and the usual sources that we watch are howling it to the rafters. Never was there a better time to step toward a career as a pilot, either with the airlines or any other organisation for that matter. Hey – you even get some foreign travel and adventure with the military these day of a sort that was diminishing until just a few years ago. When I started out with my current employer I was sitting next to a generation of captains who had seen the very best that aviation had to offer in the UK. At the time I didn’t think they knew it, now I realise that unless they had there head tucked up in the dark, they did. Their pensions were followed a earlier BOAC pattern and they were (are) worth a kings ransom. We joined on a lesser deal but it still wasn’t that bad. As it turns out, when you compare our deal to new joiners now, we are paid – another (relative) kings ransom when we retire. The point is, the deal is going progressively downhill.
To counterpoint that I hear of pilots in the US feeder carriers/low cost startups actually leaving aviation because they literally cannot afford to stay. Are we doomed to a similar fate over here as what surfaces in the ‘States generally makes its way over here and elsewhere – at least it always has done. Maybe the pendulum has swung a little too far the other way.
Every term and condition, each and every industrial agreement is being challenged and snipped away at by the company in the name of ‘cost saving.’ This pattern is repeated everywhere within the industry, I hear it in hotels, in immigration queues and across the airwaves all the time. The internet resounds with it across pilot forums (fora?)
Don’t let this phenomena put you off, as Einstein said, “Everything is relative.” Here is a pertinent question being answered by predominantly US pilots. It is a long thread, the question is hotly debated on a forum that you would do well to bookmark, particularly if you aspire to fly in the US.
Now this sounds like a whining session doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. Just a reflection at the way things change over time. What does cause me pause for concern is the way the emergent aviators are being put off a career in flying by an ever eroding package of benefits. I accept that many of us would probably fly for food if it came down to it, that’s just the way the romance of the game takes you, but even that benefit is dying as the pressure mounts throughout the industry to extract every single ounce of productivity that is squeezable from us.
My question is, with the mounting shortage that is freely being acknowledged now by both governments and carriers, when does the package start to improve and answer to the normal rules of supply and demand. Do pilots have to start kicking doors in and making demands or will this incessant squeezing stop naturally and will the dollars flow a little easier. I think I know the answer – do you? Is that a swishing pendulum I hear or am I just being optimistic?