Even the pilots pay on some low-cost flights

Unions and novices are complaining that only the rich can afford to keep up their training

Pilots' unions and trainee pilots are warning that only the wealthiest, rather than the best, candidates will become pilots because growing numbers of airlines are having cadets "pay to fly". Novice pilots who already have a basic licence are having to pay around £28,000 to achieve the "type rating" qualification needed to fly particular aircraft. Some are also being charged £260 for an interview.

The issue was raised this month by the Dutch pilots' union, VNV, which claimed that low-cost airlines, including Ryanair, are "exploiting" novice pilots. Now the British pilots' union, Balpa, has expressed its concerns about the practice, which it says is becoming more common. "Previous generations of pilots had their type and line training paid for by the airline," explained Richard Toomer, a Balpa spokesman. "The pilot was then bonded to the airline for a period of years, so that the costs of the training had to be repaid only if the pilot left during this period.

"However, many of today's trainee pilots, already debt-laden from paying around £80,000 for their basic licence, must then fund their own type rating and line training. There is growing concern about wider repercussions, including industrial relations, engagement, health, welfare, safety and quality of working life," he added.

CAE, a training company currently contracted to provide training for Ryanair, has charged an "assessment fee" of £260 to interview pilots for selection. This year, training in the Ryanair type-rating programme cost up to €28,500 (£24,000) plus VAT – according to an advert posted online.

One pilot with experience of training for Ryanair, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "They say that it is a cost, not a price, but they make money from it. They try to sell training regardless of the opportunities... the more pilots there are, the more money they make. These pilots aren't necessarily the best, but the ones that can afford it."

Evert van Zwol, chairman of the interim council of the Ryanair Pilot Group – which is not recognised by the airline – says: "We have a very strong feeling the total charges are higher than the actual costs.

"It's probably not illegal, but is it something we want to endorse as a society? I don't think it's right to have pilots pay all the costs." He added that, in addition, Ryanair pilots are mostly self-employed and get fewer hours in winter months.

A spokesman for easyJet announced earlier this month that it will now underwrite trainees' loans, offering better terms and financial advice. "For the early years... your family are supporting you as it is expensive to train," he said. "But you quickly earn a significant salary and the early sacrifice pays off. Because we are a growing airline, our guys can become captains within six or seven years, with a minimum pay of £120,000."

Robin Kiely, a spokesman for Ryanair, said: "Since Ryanair only recruits fully qualified pilots, no Ryanair pilots 'pay to fly'. These pilot union claims are simply untrue."

Philip Landau, an employment lawyer at Landau Zeffertt Weir, said: "There's no obligation on an employer to provide the payment for your training qualification. Many do, but it's largely a matter of contract between employer and employee. If there is a custom and practice for paying for training, they could be bound by this as an implied term."

Meanwhile, paying pilots as self-employed operators may soon end. A spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs said: "Employment status is never a matter of personal choice and is always dictated by the specific facts. When the employment relationship does not accurately reflect the underlying reality of the relationship... we intervene."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'