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."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Travel
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on