10 March 2021

We noted in our 2020 survey that the working environment of a pilot can be highly stressful, due to aviation being a high-consequence industry. When you add a global pandemic as well as high unemployment and furlough levels, we wanted to find out if pilots were more stressed this year.

As part of The Pilot Survey 2021, we asked pilots how they would rate their stress level from 1 to 5 (1 being not stressed and 5 being very stressed) on a normal day. Overall, pilots answered at an average stress level of 3 – a half-point increase from last year.

We analysed the data further to see if there were differences between those who were still flying in comparison to those who were furloughed. Those flying in China (45%) and the Middle-East and Africa (32%) were the most likely to rate their stress levels at either 4 or 5. Pilots flying in North America were the least stressed with 59% rating their stress level at just 1 or 2.

For pilots who were furloughed, we saw very different results. Pilots that usually fly in South America (47%) and pilots that usually fly in North America (43%) rated their stress levels at 4 or 5. Whilst for those who usually fly in China who were furloughed, we saw the stress levels of 4 or 5 drop down to 30%.

We pressed further and asked pilots to pick the one aspect that made them feel the most stressed at present out of seven factors: safety, passengers, management, rotations, commute, COVID-19 and job security.

Stress factors have changed dramatically in comparison to last year where management and rotations were the most highlighted areas. This year job security and COVID-19 have had the biggest impact on stress levels.

Pilots delivered some thought-provoking commentary on why they were stressed. Pilots aged 35 to 44 years old are the most stressed by job security:
  • “In the current climate of border restrictions and lockdowns, people are unable to travel, naturally airlines are reacting to this by reducing pilot numbers.”

  • “If the pandemic continues into 2021 with no recovery for the aviation market, the risk to lose my job is high.”

  • “The demand for air travel is much lower than the airline capacity offer, which makes the current size and employment levels unsustainable in the medium to long term.”

  • “The airline industry is in worse shape than after 9/11.“

Pilots flying in Europe are the most stressed by COVID-19

“Whilst my job is secure, my constant travel means that I become a risk to my family, however good the precautions I take are. I don’t want to catch it, and I certainly don’t want to pass it on.”

“The lack of a support plan for the aviation sector or a cohesive pan-EU response is leading to a disjointed national response to the crisis, damaging the aviation industry further and leading to further worries about job security.”

“The risk of being put in quarantine somewhere remotely in the world during a rotation is making me stressed.”

You can read the full Pilot Survey Report 2021 here
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