In an industry where the demand for pilots in 2019 was at a record high, in The Pilot Survey 2021 in collaboration with FlightGlobal, we asked pilots who identified themselves as employed and flying or furloughed if they were concerned about their job security. 82% said yes. This is a steep uptick from 52% last year. With more airlines in early 2020 announcing closures, including Flybe, Air Italy and Atlas Global and further casualties as the pandemic spread through the world, the impact on pilots and their feelings of insecurity in their roles has been immense.
We must consider that aviation has been one of the hardest-hit industries during this time, along with hospitality and other forms of travel. We would predict that those employed in these industries would feel a similar way.
Even those who had remained employed during the pandemic were concerned about their job security, particularly those flying in the Middle East and Africa (85%) and South America (86%). There will be an impact on pilots of not only seeing their colleagues lose their jobs but also the collapse of airlines and the lack of air travel throughout the pandemic. Job insecurity comes at a cost to pilots and has been linked to several adverse health outcomes, including loss of self-esteem, anxiety and stress.
Furlough has not created a feeling of security amongst pilots and if anything, it is increasing their concern for their future careers. Of those who had been on furlough in 2020, 95% were concerned about their job security. We continued by asking what exactly was making them feel concerned about their job security. It was no surprise that 65% were concerned because of COVID-19. We asked for more detail from pilots:
“My airline is only flying 20-40% of the pre-COVID sectors daily and although we are still employed, we are hardly flying. This is not sustainable. Further job cuts seem to be imminent.”
“COVID-19 is a serious threat to the aviation community. Even though my airline has preventive measures in place, one slip and we can have a super spreader closing departments.“
In particular, we wanted to highlight the commentary from one pilot who said:
“We see that almost all airlines are firing pilots to reduce the cost. Later, we can expect they will try to hire a flight crew with a worse contract.”
Whilst we have no evidence of this taking place, we do wonder if we will see any deterioration of terms once airlines are in a better position to fly and re-hire, especially with unemployment as high as it is.
8% of pilots were concerned about their job security because of the ‘lack of feedback, reviews and progression plans’. Although this is a smaller number, we noticed that the commentary was similar to some of those who were concerned because of COVID-19. Lack of communication was flagged multiple times.
Katie Mann, Global Sales Manager – Recruitment Portfolio of Flight Global considered “In a period where the COVID-19 crisis is breeding uncertainty and emotional disruption, leaders in airlines and aviation businesses need to communicate to create clarity, set expectations, build resilience and catalyse positive change. Pilots become concerned about their job security when they are not receiving feedback. Although many leaders have learnt that their businesses cannot survive without a knowledgeable, engaged and aware workforce, clearly many are not hitting the mark.”