Is pilots’ motivation really affected by the salary only?

Written by BAA Training

On 2017-09-25

Have you ever tried to figure out the underlying elements framing the concept of a pilot job? Six-figure salaries, limitless horizons above the head, a phenomenal way of the world acquisition are only a few of the most widely known aspects making this job extremely desirable; however, there exist plenty of extra peculiarities the occupation is wrapped up in.

Thus, BAA Training held a conversation with several captains to find out their opinion on the widespread rumours concerning pilot shortage, intensifying ‘salary wars’ among airlines, and also know their professional insights regarding the ways an airline can attract a top pilot.

This time we would like to reveal a different side of the pilot’s job that sometimes seems to be covered with flickering shadows.


Is pilot shortage only a modern myth?

Given the number of training centres across the globe actively preparing the new generation of future aviators, pilot shortage seems to be a very controversial matter.

On the one hand, looking from the perspective of the institutions specialising in training aviation professionals, pilot shortage does exist.

“Airlines are setting ambitious plans of their fleet expansion simultaneously looking for more pilots and, consequently, cooperating with aviation training centres on various pilot training solutions, usually Cadet Pilot Training Programmes, to deal with the demand. For example, at the beginning of this summer Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, was forced to cancel over 300 flights due to the lack of pilots. And this is just one of the examples” comments Egle Vaitkeviciute, CEO of BAA Training.

On the other hand, although partially agreeing with the problem, aviation experts see this matter as a scarcity of working experience rather than the lack of human resources. According to the captains, aviation training centres make a lot of effort to satisfy airlines with a sufficient number of highly-qualified professionals; however, in order to become an experienced captain, a pilot needs a lot of practice.

Although sometimes it reminds of the catch-22 situation, airlines are looking for ways to raise a new generation of highly-qualified aviators with the required number of flight hours.

Meanwhile,, the leading aviation recruitment agency, points out that aviation needs approximately 600 new pilots each week but the demand for experienced captains and PiCs is barely discussed.

“Currently the industry faces the problem of pilots with unrivalled expertise going grey. The fact that US air carriers, which in 5 years’ time are expected to retire more than 15,000 professionals whose age reaches 65, might be taken as direct evidence,” E. Vaitkeviciute reveals another issue.


Change of the workplace is not a solution when looking for a higher salary

Depending on the Boeing‘s Current Market Outlook 2017-2036, the global aviation centre currently settled in the US is expected to move to China. However, some people even tend to think that this has already happened as Chinese aviation sector is growing at the lightening pace.

According to Airbus Group SE, in 20 years’ time Chinese air traffic is expected to quadruple creating an enormous demand for pilots. It seems to be incredible, however, Chinese carriers only are expected to employ around 100 pilots every week to deal with the growth.

Due to the fact that China is not capable to fill all the cockpits with candidates from their homeland, the country is willingly looking for experienced aviators from abroad offering them skyrocketing pays. For example, regional Chinese airlines as well as carriers flying on the international routes promise foreigners, who are ready to settle in China, salaries ranging from 300,000$ to 330,000$ per year.

Nevertheless, although China is dangling lucrative pay packages at foreigners and the demand for pilots appears to be the fiercest particularly in this region, aviation experts express doubts regarding the flow of human resources from Europe to Asia.

“The current situation on the market shows that European pilots are not rushing away from their home. Such tendency might be explained by the existence of other aspects that influence pilots’ choice of an airline”, one of the captains reveals.

Therefore, primary, in order to be successful and earn the desired salary, one should dedicate all the time as well as put tremendous effort to build the enviable reputation and prove to be the pilot who performs the professional duties in such a way that is worth being paid for, the captain reveals.

“In this case the pilot would not be interested in changing the company, on the contrary, the airline will do its best to retain such employee offering not only a generous salary but providing many other benefits as well”, the former captain adds.

On the way to the career heights it is important to remain patient and absolutely determined that this path is the right one to pursue.


Luring of top pilots is a challenge for an airline

Luring of top pilots is a standard practice that airlines and pilots cannot avoid, aviation experts confidently state. Therefore, there is only one requirement that an airline should fulfil to make a pilot accept a job offer: meet the pilot’s expectations by making their working conditions much better.

Without a shadow of a tiniest doubt, one of the most effective ways to get a pilot work for the airline is to offer a higher salary. However, such actions might lead to unpleasant consequences and trigger the so-called “salary wars”. In general, this method is not a recently discovered phenomenon as all the aviation companies are aware of its existence and, alternatively, attempt to award their pilots with an approximately equal pay.

Therefore, if airlines’ salaries are more or less the same, a pilot should have extremely serious reasons and see radical differences in the conditions offered to change the airline the one works for, aviation experts say.

Moreover, BBC noted that between 2011 and 2016 pilots’ average pay rise of 26%, it means that an average salary of a pilot reached 112 555.39$. Thus, pilots’ pay is constantly shooting up. However, does it really satisfy pilots?

“Apart from money, one of the most attractive conditions appears to be a possibility to live with the family or, at least, an opportunity to regularly meet them.

Additionally, pilots pay attention to such features as the size of an aircraft they are expected to fly, as it is a well-known fact that most of pilots dream about big airliners”, comments the interviewee.

Moreover, aviators might be influenced by all the additional perks the airline is able to offer: free air travel with the airline, various types of insurance (especially pilot licence insurance), etc.

Experienced captains say: “It is not enough to dream of the cockpit, since the very first training you should be 100% sure that this is your way and do whatever it takes to lay a solid foundation for your perspective future”.

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