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Helping Thomas Cook Pilots through tough times

by Claire Hood BALPA National Officer

Late last month the aviation world was shaken by the dreadful news that Thomas Cook had collapsed. Staff, including members of our pilot community, woke up to find they no longer had a job. BALPA was there for members from the start. I was with them as the solemn news was announced at the Manchester hangar, ready to offer advice and support and implement an immediate action plan.

BALPA  has three main aims at thins difficult time:

1. To ensure our members know their rights and get all to which they are entitled.
2. To help them to secure new jobs as quickly as possible.
3. To offer them all the support they need to deal with the trauma and stress of losing a job.

In the days following the collapse, BALPA staff and representatives visited all UK bases to offer face-to-face advice and support. I myself spoke to many people who were coming to terms with the news. For many it was a time of shock and there were many questions to be answered. I was there to offer members any assistance they needed to understand what had happened and what the process would be now. We’ve also been making every effort to support those on PHI and pensions. It won’t be a quick answer but we are endeavouring to get answers as quickly as possible. Concise and clear communication has been vital. We continue to send information and updates by email so our members have the very latest news as quickly as possible.

Ensuring pilots get a fair deal:

BALPA’s legal team has been exploring all the possibilities including legal claims for protective awards. BALPA also called on the Government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the demise of the airline and questioned how the German arm of the company could continue flying while the UK branch was grounded.

Creating career opportunities:

A clear priority for BALPA is to get pilots back in to work as quickly as possible. Our team has contacted airlines to identify and secure recruitment opportunities. At the same time, measures have been put in place to ensure our members have the tools they need to secure a new position. In collaboration with AirlinePrep, BALPA has rolled out a free programme of bespoke training for Thomas Cook pilots. We have also negotiated free and heavily discounted simulator sessions for them.

Videos on interviews and writing a curriculum vitae, are available online, along with messages of support and recruitment advice from BALPA members at different airlines. Those who secure an interview with Virgin Atlantic can also take advantage of a unique support group of Virgin pilots, we’ve set up, to mentor on the recruitment process within the airline. This service has had over 155 queries to date. This is complimented by our Crew Connected Service, available to all job seeking members, which puts people directly in touch with pilots at other airlines, who can provide guidance and interview support.

Finally, all members, including former Thomas Cook pilots, will be able to attend a Careers Exhibition (Flight Crew Futures) later this month, where exhibitors including Emirates will be in attendance.

Emotional support:

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 (PAG) is available to Thomas Cook pilots should they need some counselling at this time. This service is completely confidential. They offer a listening ear, day or night, 365 days a year.

BALPA supporting pilots:

Though out this difficult time there has been an outpouring of support for those affected from colleagues across the industry and from members of the public. BALPA is a community of pilots supporting pilots, and it is at times like these that being part of that community can make all the difference. There have been numerous messages of backing from pilots from all airlines on our social media and forums.

Though this all, those affected by this tragic collapse of Thomas Cook can rest assured that BALPA is doing all it can to help them though the tough times and ensure they are swiftly back on their feet.