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BALPA updates position on recruitment to reflect market positivity

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) says recruitment is looking positive for 2023-24 but questions if the training industry can cope.

BALPA has updated its position on pilot recruitment to recognise the positive changes it is seeing in the industry.  

The UK’s biggest pilot union says that after a period of seeing pilots made redundant in the COVID-19 pandemic returned to work, it is seeing some positions being filled by pilots who have not previously held commercial flying positions.  

BALPA has also welcomed the launch of two fully funded airline backed cadet programmes (at TUI and British Airways) which BALPA says opens up the profession and enhances diversity.  

It is therefore BALPA’s prediction that from 2024 for an unknown period, we are likely to see a sustained reduction in the number of unemployed experienced pilots and an increased demand for newly qualified pilots – increased demand compared to 2022-2023 requirements. 

BALPA has continued to remind aspiring pilots that while the outlook is positive, there are still risks to consider when entering flight training. The union has noted that the many pilot training providers are struggling to recruit and retain staff and this is leading to significant delays and additional costs for aspiring airline pilots. 

The union urges anyone embarking on training to start by visiting BALPA’s new bespoke webpages, to view independent advice on what it takes to make it as a pilot.  

Becoming a pilot- the inside track 

Aspiring pilots can also read about our nextGen programme and campaign on flight school closures on BALPA’s campaign pages. 

 BALPA Interim General Secretary, Miranda Rackley said:  

“BALPA is delighted to be able to revise its predictions to reflect the current trends. We are seeing increased recruitment and some opportunities for not only experienced crew but also newly qualified pilots and that is certainly good news.  

“But we are aware of just how quickly a situation can change. BALPA prides itself on being a trusted voice in the industry and as such we must remind aspiring pilots of that market volatility and urge them to make sure they know the risks before embarking on training. 

“BALPA’s nextGen campaign is designed to ensure we are looking after pilots right from the first steps in their career. We have a dedicated site with all our information about becoming a pilot available to all on our website and we are actively campaigning to protect trainee pilots from flight school collapses.  

 Winter 2023/2024 – BALPA Position on Flight Training IN FULL

A positive outlook for 2023-2024

In 2023 we have continued to see increased recruitment across a large portion of UK and European airlines. This recruitment need is predominantly being met by experienced pilots; however, we are delighted to see a proportion of those jobs being filled by pilots who have not previously held a commercial flying position as outlined later in this briefing.

This follows a period of seeing a large number of those pilots who were made redundant during the Covid-19 pandemic, either return to their pre-pandemic positions or gain new positions elsewhere.

It is therefore our prediction that from 2024 for an unknown period, we are likely to see a sustained reduction in the number of unemployed experienced pilots and an increased demand for newly qualified pilots – increased demand compared to 2022-2023 requirements.

New fully funded cadet programmes

We were delighted to see the launch of two fully funded airline backed cadet programmes. The first being the “TUI Airways Pilot Cadet Programme”. This long-awaited programme was welcomed and supported by BALPA as it removes the single biggest barrier to the profession – financial means. This is also the first time BALPA has been able to support an MPL (Multi-crew Pilot Licence) programme, as with all previous MPL programmes the financial risk has been entirely placed on the trainee. With the funding structure that this new TUI programme offers, that financial risk is taken on by the airline and not the trainee.

In July 2023 British Airways announced a similar scheme. We were pleased to witness British Airways’ commitment to nurturing aspiring pilots right from the inception of their careers. Through the provision of a fully funded cadet scheme, the airline fosters the expansion of the talent pool, which, as in TUI, reaches beyond individuals solely reliant on personal financial means. This initiative serves to enhance diversity within an industry that has historically operated within a more confined sphere.

Know the risks

Entering flight training at any time comes with inherent risks, we will continue to educate the next generation of pilots and continue tackling those risks. Flight training organisations have not been immune to the financial pressures caused by Covid-19, not to mention the rising costs of energy.

Unfortunately, in 2023 we have seen several flight schools collapse whilst in possession of large sums of trainee’s money. This has understandably been hugely distressing for the Trainee Pilots who have been impacted by this. We continue to support our nextGen members with agreements with alternative training providers offering their support, access to the BALPA Benevolent Fund and the Pilot Advisory Group.

In response to the collapse of several Flight Schools, we have launched a campaign to address two crucial concerns: to seek proper financial regulation of flight schools and secure a stable pilot training pipeline for the UK aviation industry.

View our flight schools campaign information

With so much risk involved in embarking on a career as a professional pilot, many hopefuls seek out flight schools that close ties to airlines. Do not base your decision on the promise of a job with an airline from a flight school. Whilst some schools may have close ties with or contacts within airlines, the only certainty of a job with a company is a signed contract from that company. All too often we see members choose a flight school based on a “gentleman’s promise” of a job or, a conditional offer of employment with a company, only for that offer to no longer be valid two years later at the end of their training.

We also urge those considering Flight School selection to probe the school to ascertain if they have adequate staffing levels to fulfil their new cadet intake.  Any shortage of flight instructors can create training delays leading to augmented costs for cadets, encompassing additional expenditures on accommodation and miscellaneous items which can be amplified if part of your training takes place overseas.  Furthermore, these delays may have ramifications on your entry into the job market because of potential increases to your training timeline. Consequently, BALPA strongly advises that you diligently peruse our instructions and proactively seek clarification through inquiries.

If enrolling in an airline “tagged”, “sponsored” or otherwise “affiliated” course, we recommend that pilots seek independent legal advice from a contract lawyer prior to committing to the training course or parting with any money. Particular attention should be paid to any “conditions of employment” section, with regards to the airline’s hiring needs upon competition of your training.

Be part of the UK’s biggest pilot community

Finally, we want to reiterate that BALPA is here to support its members at every stage of their careers. We act only with the best interests of our members at heart to ensure they are protected at every stage of their journey.