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How BALPA and the piloting community is navigating the coronavirus crisis

by Brian Strutton General Secretary

In recent years the aviation industry thrived. Then along came coronavirus and we now find ourselves in uncharted territory. Airlines are in a fight for survival, their flights grounded, staff uncertain of their futures and passengers stranded around the world.

Throughout these world changing events, BALPA has remained steady. We have continued to support members, to be the voice of pilots and to fight for the aviation industry.

Aviation needs help now. The airlines need help now. Their staff and our BALPA members need help now and passengers need to be returned home.

The Government has promised the industry bespoke measures to help it through these incredibly difficult times. But we are yet to see this support materialise.

The Government needs to stop putting aviation on the back burner and give us a clear message about the financial and health and safety measures that will help the industry survive this coronavirus pandemic.

BALPA has been in regular contact with ministers and continues to push for this promised lifeline to be put in place immediately.

Airlines are making huge decisions right now and they need to know what level of support they will receive from the Government. Our reps and national officers have been in constant communication with airline managers to ensure any measures brought in to tackle the crisis are appropriate.

While much of our time is dedicated to supporting pilots who have found their flights grounded, we also continue to support many freight pilots, offshore helicopter and search and rescue pilots who continue to fly. You can read the experience of one such pilot in our previous blog ‘Flying in the face of Coronavirus’.

At the same time the Government has announced that UK commercial airlines, including BA, easyJet, Virgin, and Jet2 will be assisting in the repatriation effort to bring Brits stranded abroad back home, so some pilots are continuing to take to the skies even now.

For pilots, safety is always the priority and they need reassurances that if they are continuing to work, their wellbeing and that of their crew and passengers is being taken in to account. We have concerns that those vulnerable to coronavirus could be forced to fly and that those who do pilot repatriation flights may not have any or the correct personal protective equipment to stay safe. BALPA has raised these issues directly with Ministers.

All of us in these strange times are adapting to new ways of living and working. One example is BALPA’s move to working remotely with the aim of continuing business as usual. Virtual meetings have become commonplace and communication by phone, 2Way app, email and online is replacing face to face interaction.

Change and stress can take their toll on people, but I hope that all our staff, reps and members are adjusting to these changes and following the Government advice to stay safe. We are here for you if you are struggling and have, this week, issued health and safety advice to all members on coronavirus.

On a personal level I would like to wish our members, reps and staff well. Our BALPA community stands strong. BALPA is here to fight to ensure every member and the aviation industry as a whole, stays safe and well throughout this crisis and is ready for the new world that will emerge when this virus abates.