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Helping pilots in dark times

by David Margrie BALPA National Officer

It was four o’clock in the morning when the news broke that Monarch had gone in to administration. Pilots woke up to hear that their company had gone bust and their services were no longer required. It was devastating news for the pilots who found themselves out of a job.

But the pilot community rallied round to support those facing such terrible news. BALPA immediately put an emergency action plan in place to support our members though this very stressful time. Our plan was threefold: ensure members receive the redundancy packages to which they are entitled, to help them to secure new jobs as quickly as possible, and offer them all the support they need to deal with the trauma and stress of losing a job.

The immediate aftermath:

A sudden exit from a job can pack a financial and emotional punch. Our programme of support aims to help in both areas.

Communicating with members:

The pilots affected needed concise information fast, so clear communication was vital. We began with helping pilots understand what insolvency means and what they could expect to happen. Our team of staff and reps sent newsletters explaining redundancy and payments that may be due.

Meeting members:

Speaking to pilots face to face was a priority for BALPA and we ensured we were able to visit all Monarch bases as soon as was possible. I spoke to pilots in Birmingham and Luton. Their mood was sombre and they needed information about the minefield that is the claims process from administrators and the redundancy payments service. Meeting pilots in person meant we were able to keep them well informed about what was going on and help them understand what was happening. We very quickly had all five bases covered with national officers and the Company Council attending meetings.

Creating career opportunities:

As soon as the insolvency was disclosed BALPA recognised the importance of ensuring this pilot talent does not leave the industry. BALPA Company Councils swiftly contacted the Director of Flight Operations at their companies to identify and help create recruitment opportunities. Within 24 hours of the announcement, 18 airlines had already expressed an interest in recruiting these experienced pilots. And the work didn’t stop there. We continue to speak to airlines and have identified several more opportunities in the time since the collapse.

Learning from the collapse and looking in to legal action:

In the aftermath of the insolvency BALPA’s legal team began to explore all the possibilities. We looked at, and explained to members, the possibility of legal claims, protective awards and maybe even unfair dismissal.

BALPA also called on the government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the demise of the airline and the role of the company’s former financial backers, the Mantegazza family and Greybull Capital.

Getting a fair deal for members:

Very early on BALPA became aware that some pilots who could not attend the redundancy meetings had been asked to join a conference call to hear the news. This premium rate phone call, to hear the news they had lost their jobs, cost some pilots up to £40. BALPA took up this issue immediately and called for KPMG to apologise for this shabby behaviour and reimburse those affected. And we were successful. KPMG has agreed to reimburse Monarch staff who lost money on the call to hear about their redundancy.

Long-term support:

Our initial response was just the beginning. BALPA will be there for every member though the process of redundancy, through their search for new position and through their new careers.

Just today BALPA has written to the Government and Greybull Capital to encourage the company to prioritise paying former Monarch staff the money they are owed. It followed reports that the company had offered to hand over proceeds from asset sales to the Government to help cover the cost of the passenger repatriation programme. BALPA will continue to urge the Government and company to make every effort to ensure that loyal Monarch ex-employees are not left high and dry.

At the same time BALPA is ready to assist people through the very daunting task of changing jobs. BALPA can offer unique support, through sharing impartial advice, knowledge and the expertise of our team and members.

BALPA’s Membership and Career Services (MACS) team has long been set up to assist members as they progress through their working life, so we already had resources to draw on. Our long-term support includes the following:


At the time of writing, BALPA’s MACS team has sent 16 newsletters with information about current vacancies, including those with accelerated interview processes for Monarch pilots. BALPA has also provided members with CV and interview guides and information about the pros and cons of working overseas.

Crew Connected service:

The great thing about BALPA is that it is an organisation run by pilots for pilots. It means we have a unique ability to put pilots in touch with each other. We were able to offer Monarch pilots access to our Crew Connected service, which puts them in touch with members that work in the airlines they’re applying to. This gives them first-hand guidance from people in the industry.

Flight Crew Futures:

On Tuesday 17th October, BALPA jointly ran the Flight Crew Futures event at London Gatwick. This was a new approach to pilot career opportunities for experienced and newly qualified pilots. The day included a wide range of airlines and recruitment agencies, informative presentations and allowed pilots the opportunity to ask specific questions, directly with pilot recruiters.

Events like this allow us to support our members at a time when they need our intervention most. We were able speak to members on a one to one basis at this difficult time and the feedback we’ve had has been good. One member told our team:

“I would like to express my immense gratitude to everyone at BALPA, you’ve been a real-life line and if this tragedy is the end of a long career for me, I will regard my membership as one of the best decisions I made.”

Airline preparation courses

We’ve also held six bespoke BALPA airline preparation courses at Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham, attended by 65 members. The modules included numerical and verbal reasoning, group exercises and interview skills. A further three will take place in the next three weeks so every pilot that would like training will have access to it.

Support through the trauma:

BALPA is not only there to support pilots though the financial strains of redundancy and help them get jobs. I spoke to pilots who were emotionally devastated by the news. We recognise that losing a job can be traumatic and may cause health issues. That’s why BALPA has made sure the Pilots Advisory Group is available to Monarch pilots should they need some counselling at this time.

The loss of an airline like Monarch is undoubtedly bad news. But let me assure you that BALPA will work tirelessly on behalf of the affected pilots and any other pilots who are looking for work. We are here to support all our members though these tough times and hope to get as many pilots as possible into jobs as soon as we can.