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BALPA demands Winter Resilience Fund for aviation companies to cover shattered confidence in winter travel

The British Air Line Pilots’ Association has written to the Government calling for a Winter Resilience Fund that would provide an ‘airbridge’ of funding for aviation companies that are seeing a steep drop in demand thanks to Omicron and the Government’s response.

Airlines have made huge losses through two bad summer seasons and now face another winter of uncertainty, changing restrictions and Government suppressed demand, severely reducing income. Commercial pressure means airlines are returning only minimal numbers of pilots back to duty with many still grounded.

Never before have so many people needed training all at the same time. Piloting is a key example of a safety critical job and those returning to the cockpit need to refresh their skills and rebuild resilience. This training is costly and takes time, but it is vital to flight safety and underpins the future prosperity of the UK. Existing requirements for training and recency were not designed with such a prolonged slow-down in mind.

BALPA is calling on Government to recognise this and commit some funds to ensure the development of additional and appropriate training schemes in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority.

BALPA has suggested two example schemes that the CAA could agree with airlines, that would cost an estimated £15 million. This is a sliver of the support that was given to shore up losses made because of Government restrictions over the last 18 months and comes just as airlines were seeing a return to profitability – a status now in decline due to Omicron.

BALPA General Secretary Martin Chalk said:

“Just when we thought recovery was on solid footing, the Government has apparently sought to wreck confidence in air travel and make it significantly more expensive and stressful.

“Airlines are seeing both booking cancellations and a huge drop in demand.

“Government needs to recognise the challenges that these restrictions are having on the bottom line for air operators, and that they must address the impact this has on resilience.

“The motor skills pilots and other safety staff need are analogous to riding a bike, they are not easily forgotten and are quickly trained to competence. However, the need to become resilient, to be able to prioritise and manage workload in the real-world environment, (equivalent to roadcraft on a bike) is more challenging and needs both practice and exposure.

“These are both expensive to bring up to speed, not required by the legal minimum return to work standards and yet, in this unprecedented situation are vital for safety.”