Losing a job is never easy, no matter the profession. It is something a lot of people go through during their career. But why is it especially frustrating for pilots? Why is it life-changing? What can you do about it? And how can you prevent losing a pilot job? We are going to shed some light on this topic since we think you should hear about it, especially during these crazy times.
We also offer some career advice for anyone who wants to hear it, including future pilots, student pilots and pilots without an airline job.
The basics, pilot training
Nothing is normal about this situation, it’s a problem, something no airline had to deal with before. And it’s impossible to say how the aviation industry will look in a few years. It’s changing so rapidly that even by the time you read this article, our opinion and the situation might have changed again. So let’s start with the basics.
To become a pilot you need to complete the training and in most cases that training will cost between €80.000 to €140.000 ,-. Governments don’t provide funding for pilot training so having to take on a loan is not uncommon.
After a couple of years you complete the training and are ready to spread your wings. Unless you did something else before you started the pilot training, you are not an accountant, doctor or banker. You are now part of a small group of people with a very specific job. You can fly airplanes, that’s what you were trained for. The problem with that is the amount of opportunities.
Losing a pilot job and the consequences
Take the Netherlands for example, they are small in size but 17 million strong. There are loads of jobs around. But as a pilot there are only a handful of companies you can work for. Without any experience it’s highly unlikely they will consider hiring you so at some point you will have to accept any job that comes your way and that’s perfectly fine. Maybe that’s even what you wanted. Anyway, you knew what you signed up for.
After a couple of years in a foreign country you hear about a vacancy in your home country, a job close to your friends, family and loved ones. So you go for it and your life becomes stable. You think about getting children, buying a house and you can finally start to payback the enormous loan you had to sign up for in order to fund the pilot training. I guess you get the picture.
Now imagine you bought that house, you have 2 young children and try to pay back the pilot loan. And you lose that job. All of a sudden your entire life is in complete state of disarray. What to do? You are no longer as flexible as you used to be in your twenties. You now have children and a mortgage. Moving to the other side of the world isn’t an option anymore. Yet none of the other local airlines are currently hiring.
It’s not like you can just apply for a 9 to 5 kind of job because you are not trained for it. You don’t have the required education. And even if you did, chances are you won’t be able to pay the mortgage and student loan for your pilot training. This is the predicament a lot of pilots find themselves in at this moment.
Thousands of pilots lost their jobs because of the current pandemic. There’s no doubt the aviation and travel industry is taking a tremendous hit because of it. Airplanes are grounded, airlines are going bankrupt and people are no longer certain of their jobs. The worst thing about it, it’s not over yet. The aviation industry will probably take a couple of years to recover. But again, who can tell? What does this mean for everyone?
Let’s create a couple of groups.
- Pilots that are still employed
- Pilots with experience that lost their jobs
- Pilots that are still in training or recently graduated
- People that dream of becoming a pilot
Pilots that are still employed and false media information
Pilots that are still employed will probably face temporary measures like salary cuts and working part time. Airlines that were doing well before the pandemic are now placed in a different perspective. There is a strong public opinion because the media loves to discuss pilots salaries, benefits etc.
Unfortunately, most media coverage is based on inaccurate information. They often forget the huge training costs and the fact that we are paid for our responsibilities, the long days and other sacrifices like being away from family, financial risks etcetera. It’s a very specific job as we mentioned earlier and by spreading false information people still consider this as the truth because they simply don’t know any better.
It’s also the reason why many people do not completely understand the situation pilots are in. If a pilot loses his or her job the general opinion is that it’s not a big deal. Everyone can lose a job and pilots get paid well anyways. However, losing a pilot job is completely different from losing many other jobs. It’s not like there are a lot of jobs available and the requirement to pay around a €1000,- per month on interest and loan repayment remains.
Imagine having to spend a thousand euros of your own net salary on a monthly basis for years to come because of a debt. That’s the world many pilots live in today. But is that what you are reading in the newspapers? No. Besides, not all pilots make huge amounts of money. It’s the same as any other career. At the end of it you have reached the top but the road towards it is often less glamorous and it’s also very airline specific.
Pilots with experience that lost their jobs
Pilots with experience that lost their jobs will look for other opportunities. They will have to keep their license and medical valid by themselves until they find a new job. They might have to move, perhaps with their families and compete with others for the same job. They are likely to be the first people the get hired when this situation has passed.
Pilots that are still in training or recently graduated
Pilots that are still in training or that recently graduated should look for ways to maintain their flying skills. It’s common having to wait a couple of years before obtaining that first airline job, there’s no reason to despair. You have your entire professional career ahead of you, it has just been delayed a little bit. You might doubt if you have made a right decision but try to eliminate those thoughts.
Focus on maintaining your skills. Look for jobs at a simulator center, or any aviation company, become an instructor, fly in the general aviation sector and earn a living by doing something else, temporarily. You will eventually end up in the right seat, you just have to hang in there!
People that dream of becoming a pilot
And last but not least, the people that dream of becoming a pilot. Let’s just start by saying that there is no reason to give up on this dream. In our opinion it might be wise to just delay it a bit. It’s best to study something else until the situation improves, perhaps a study related to aviation. Cater your life to create the best possibilities and opportunities later on.
Educate yourself, look for flight schools, train yourself for assessments. At Your Pilot Academy we have the right selection preparation courses for you if you choose to prepare yourself. Did you see our Physics For Pilots Course or Math For Pilots Course for example? Completing those will definitely give you a head start!
Don’t give up on the dream and be ready to apply at a flight school the moment you feel it’s a good time. If you really want to start your training right now, it’s probably best to look for sponsored programs. Some airlines have their own flight schools and they usually come with a job guarantee. That’s still a solid choice.
Another good alternative is to go for a military career. This is something we only recommend to people that have given it a fair bit of thought though, since a military career isn’t for everyone.
Whatever you do, make a plan and be prepared for any opportunity that gets you closer to achieving your goal! Never ever give up on your dreams, use your brain and play it smart!
We know this probably isn’t the message you wanted to hear if you are dreaming about becoming a pilot. However, we truly believe that this is the worst crisis in the aviation industry to date and there’s simply no way to tell when the situation will be back to normal.
Life is like a sinus, containing ups and down
Having said that, the aviation industry, like the economy, always has its ups and downs. It is and always will be a like a sinus. Whether it is caused by a virus, a volcano eruption or anything else, the aviation industry is extremely sensitive for things that are going on in the world. There are difficult times ahead for everyone involved but we are absolutely certain that the aviation industry will recover from this.
Aviation is the future and the industry will grow beyond the level it was at, at the beginning of 2020. There will be a place in the cockpit for anyone that desires it and is willing to work for it. Most chances come once in a lifetime, so we always advise anyone to make the best and most out of this life which has been given to you. If you are healthy, young and have a brain you are in a luxury position.
How many people around you aren’t so lucky? Why waste all these beautiful opportunities by remaining in your comfort zone and settling down for less. We don’t see the point of that. Life is too short, really.
Find what gives you energy, what drives you and fight for it. Don’t let expectations of society hold you back from achieving whatever it is that you want to achieve. Whether that is starting your own business, becoming president or… becoming a pilot.
You will always have people around you bringing you down, saying you can’t do something or reminding you with facts that chances of succeeding are very little. But remember, all success stories included failures and… people who didn’t believe in them.
It is hard to say this but sometimes even the closest people around you, who’s opinion you value most, can’t always advise you. Simply because your abilities, motivation and goals do not match theirs.
Always question yourself, would you like to be in the position of the person who is advising you? Do they have that life that you have always wanted? If the answer is NO, most likely those are not the people who can advise you best on life changing decisions. You see, most people advise you based on their perspective of this world, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Interested in more motivational content? Perhaps you find the content created by Michelle Gooris useful. She is an airline pilot who is well known for her inspiring content, this is a link to her YouTube channel.
Did this situation affect your job? What are you doing about it? Leave us a comment below, we are curious to learn more about your point of view!