Which airlines hire low-hour pilots?


Seldom have so many experienced pilots been available on the job market in Europe. After the airline bankruptcies of the past few months, a number of expanding airlines from all over the world are now vying for the freed cockpit crews.

Employers present themselves to candidates at road shows and recruitment fairs such as the Pilot Expo in Berlin at the end of last week. In general, the following applies to cockpit crews affected by bankruptcies: Those who are flexible and can have enough flight hours should have no problems being able to take off again promptly - and probably even on significantly better terms.

"Many Germania pilots come out of a bubble," says Assad Ali from the international headhunter agency Flight Crew International. At the Pilot Expo, quite a few applicants would for the first time really realize what is possible with other airlines. The agent specializing in cockpit crews is currently primarily looking for captains for various airlines in China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Many applicants are drawn abroad

By the way, the candidates are often not just interested in more money, says Ali. Experiencing something new and discovering different regions of the world is just as attractive for many. Many airlines abroad would even take care of things like family reunification or allow time for visits back home when moving.

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Nevertheless, the money beckons. In China, captains like to earn 25,000 euros - per month. While there are almost no taxes in Dubai, in Luxembourg even at the end of the month, in certain constellations, more net than gross can come out. In addition, there are legal safeguards in the event of unfit to fly.

However, if you are considering working abroad and staying at home, you need to find out about double taxation. But there are even more challenges: In other parts of the world there are sometimes significant differences in licenses. While India or Vietnam, for example, recognize Easa licenses without any problems, the process in China, including the acquisition of the Chinese pilot's license, can sometimes take more than a year.

New employer: New selection process and new training

Regardless of whether a pilot is drawn to the big wide world or the new employer is in Europe - he always has to go to school again. Because in addition to a general company briefing, various security procedures are airline-specific and have to be retrained. In addition, there is often a new type rating, i.e. the authorization for the cockpit of a new type of aircraft including "line training" in normal flight operations.

Most airlines currently pay for these training courses for their new pilots. In return, however, the newcomers have to commit to the new employer for a longer period of time. At Emirates and Ryanair, for example, it's five years, and at Cargolux three.

However, even for experienced pilots, switching to another airline is not as easy as changing a normal office job. Because the candidates have to prove themselves again in numerous tests before being hired by their new employer. At the Emirates booth, you can find out that not even half of the applicants pass the test procedure - even though the airline, with only widebody jets in its fleet, already sets the formal hurdles for applicants quite high.

The flying hours are often a hurdle

Incidentally, the minimum requirements in terms of flight experience differ considerably from one airline to another. For example, while Aerologic requires at least 500 hours on an aircraft with a two-man cockpit, Cargolux requires 1500 hours of flight on larger models. The new Cargologic Germany only accepts applications with more than 2000 hours in the startup phase.

Easyjet has taken over a number of Air Berlin crews in Berlin. Over 700 new pilots were taken on last year, says Bart Prudon, flight operations manager at Easyjet in Germany. Even now, Easyjet is still looking for bases across Europe. In Germany one is actually through for now, but the Germania situation is currently changing that again.

Also read: Airlines are vying for Germania staff

In this mixed situation, the young pilots who have flown their own licenses in independent pilot schools are inevitably left behind. Since they have practically no flight hours, the experienced first officers are currently preferred to be hired in the application process. The only thing left for them to do is to collect hours with jobs such as aircraft flyovers or as a flight instructor, in order to then "earn" jet lessons with business jet operators.

The industry also needs young drivers

But there are still opportunities for young professionals in the airline sector. For example, Tuifly or the German DHL airline European Air Transport also employ "ab initio" pilots, i.e. young professionals who still have the entire training (with their future employer) ahead of them. At Ryanair, too, the need for pilots is currently far from being covered by the crews from Germania or Fly BMI that have now become available, says Angelo Currao, who coordinates the pilot recruitment department at the low-cost airline. Ryanair is planning to train around 600 so-called "low hour pilots" on the Boeing 737 this year.

Last year Ryanair hired around 1000 pilots across Europe, incidentally, according to the information, since March only directly and no longer through temporary employment agencies. And the job at the low-cost airline also has many other advantages, says Currao. One of them are very stable rosters. You fly a morning shift for five days, then four days off and then five days of an evening turn. No matter how: After work, the Ryanair crews are always at their home airport: "We don't have any planned overnight stays at the destination."

Eurowings also has similar flight plans in point-to-point traffic. At the Pilot Expo, the fast-growing Lufthansa low-cost airline will be exhibiting at the booth of the Lufthansa Group flight school European Flight Academy. After a number of restructuring measures in recent years, the future cockpit crews for all airlines in the Lufthansa Group are now being trained centrally here.

Student pilots have to choose: MPL or ATPL

Compared to the old Lufthansa flight school, a lot has changed in recent years. The training costs of around 80,000 euros for the MPL (Multi Crew Pilot License) or 60,000 euros for the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) can be deferred on request. This means that the candidates only pay back the costs when they have secured a salary in the cockpit of a Lufthansa Group airline.

Florian Juraschek is certain that it is important for the airline to take responsibility for its own offspring. It is Director Commercial Flight School at the Lufthansa Flight School. In the Lufthansa Group alone, around 250 pilots are currently retiring for reasons of age. At the same time, the airline group is growing.

According to the cockpit pilots' association, the two different licenses in the school's portfolio are based on collective bargaining law. If you want to fly with an airline in the Lufthansa group wage agreement, you absolutely need the MPL. But the ATPL also has advantages: If you want to position yourself more broadly, the license is good advice. By the way, a cadet cannot really choose which group airline to hire with later.

The fascination of pilots is unbroken

The demand in the flight schools is unbroken. The discussions about a future with a one-man cockpit or the control of aircraft from the ground have evidently not done any harm. According to studies, the profession of pilot is no longer at the top of the wish list for young people. But the fascination remains.

This is also observed by Nils Bartling, training captain at Tuifly. The young people are a different generation than they were a few years ago. The applicants are very focused. The diarrhea rate in the test has also been falling for years. "The computer kids can just do that," says Bartling. They would have the skills and enjoyment to operate complex technical devices such as modern airplanes. At the same time, the pilot candidates are very internationally oriented and want to experience things.

And so there will probably be enough young pilots for a long time to come. Last year, Boeing forecast that around 800,000 new pilots would be needed worldwide in the next 20 years. In this way, anyone who wants to become a pilot can find their way into the cockpit in the future.