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Aspiring pilots face double the debt of university students, warns BALPA.

As students starting university get to grips with their finances the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) is highlighting difficulties aspiring pilots have in funding their training.

Aspiring pilots are not entitled to student loans and their training can cost around £100,000. It means they’re graduating with twice the debt of an average university student who is likely to tot up around £50,000* debt.

BALPA says this high cost of training, which many pilots have financed by borrowing, is a huge barrier for prospective pilots looking to join the profession and can prevent those from less affluent backgrounds from considering the career.

BALPA is lobbying policymakers and airlines to do more and is giving new entrants to the career a voice though its nextGen campaign which is calling for:

More support for would-be pilots to ensure the career is open to those from all backgrounds.

– Funded apprenticeship schemes for pilots
– For all aspiring pilots to be able to claim back VAT on the training they pay for.

Dale Mudie a member of BALPA’s nextGen Steering Group and says debt is a serious concern that is putting talented people off flying as a career:

“We hear time and again from young people who are put off because their parents can’t support them financially and they can’t get the money they need to be able to undertake the training. It is very much a social class filter, with only a handful being able to break through, by nothing else but sheer determination.

“I funded my training myself by working full time in a second career. My parents re-mortgaged their house to help me out too. It really wasn’t easy and I will be paying back those loans for years to come.

“That sort of burden can put even the most talented people off. It’s time something is done to level the playing field and ensure that pilot recruitment is about ability and not how deep your pockets are.”

Wendy Pursey, Head of Membership and Career Services at BALPA says:

“For the aviation industry to thrive it needs a supply of highly trained pilots. But we believe this financial burden is having a real impact on pilots and has wider repercussions for the aviation industry.

“More needs to be done to ensure fresh talent is supported early in its career and that why BALPA is speaking out and pressing the Government, regulator and airlines to do more.”

*Figure from the Institute for Fiscal Studies 2017.