The global Aviation industry is experiencing one of the biggest challenges of its time; COVID-19. As borders have closed and travel restrictions have intensified, many airlines have grounded their fleets, with little knowledge of when they may return to the skies. Pilots have become unemployed, fewer jobs are available in the market, and people feel apprehensive of their uncertain futures in aviation.
The aftermath of these unprecedented times will bring change in how airlines operate and ultimately, how pilots are recruited, who will be available in the market and how they will be employed.
A brain-drain of experienced pilots
I predict that many experienced Pilots will choose to take early retirement or leave aviation amid the pandemic. Having already experienced previous industry down-turns and other market challenges, for some Pilots it may be simply too much to face another.
For the employment market, this will mean a skill gap at the top, with an increased shortage of experienced Pilots. Airlines will need to be working hard to plug this gap.
A surge in flexible employment solutions
Airlines will require more flexible employment solutions. I see a rise in contract-based Pilot Recruitment. Some airlines will favour an employment profile with a more significant share of contract pilots over permanently employed Pilots.
With contract work comes the risk that Pilots may become more mobile, and retention will become an issue for hiring managers.
Increased pressure on pilot wages
Coming out the other side airlines will be under pressure to offer cheaper airfares to remain attractive and seek a competitive advantage. Airlines will look to reduce operating costs, including employment. Combined with shorter-term contracts, I see Pilot pay either stagnating or even decreasing to enable airlines to stay in business.
Pilots will view working in China as less attractive
Before the pandemic, China was well-known for offering Pilots attractive and lucrative remuneration packages. Airlines actively targeted ex-pats to relocate to the country as the market continued to develop, and air travel demand grew exponentially.
Unfortunately, I envisage some conscious or unconscious bias from ex-pats on their consideration of Pilot jobs in China. The need to train local pilots within China will become more significant than ever. Airlines in China will no longer be able to rely on a large number of ex-pats to fill the vacant roles.
A career as a pilot will be a tough-sell
For many budding and low-hour Pilots, the state of the Aviation industry amid the coronavirus pandemic will make them reconsider their future career options. With a growing number of airlines forced into administration, mass layoffs and pay cuts, the future Pilot pool could dry up. A massive problem for the industry if air travel hits previously anticipated growth in years to come.