It can cost up to £100,000 to train as a pilot
It can cost up to £100,000 to train as a pilot

Only the rich can afford to be airline pilots due to cost of training, warns industry body

The high cost is putting off talented students 

Ravneet Ahluwalia
Friday 18 August 2017 13:14

Students from poorer backgrounds are being put off a career in flying due to the cost of training, an industry body warned today.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), which represents over 75 per cent of pilots in the UK, has called for airlines to take steps to ensure pilot selection is open to all.

The organisation says that costs of up to £100,000 to train and qualify mean that good A-level results are simply not enough for aspiring pilots, who now need to factor in financial considerations as they decide on their career path.

In the past airlines would fund flight training. Those who made it onto their schemes were guaranteed a job if they successfully passed their exams.

However, this has changed in the last few decades. The burden of costs has increasingly fallen to the student pilots who have to pay to qualify themselves, often with no promise of a job at the end.

BALPA reports that aspiring pilots say this has led to a two-tier system, with less talented but richer students able to train while those from poorer backgrounds are put off by the prospect of huge debts.

The association is calling on airlines and decision makers to ensure pilots from less advantaged backgrounds are not put off the career. It says selection must be based on ability to do the job and not ability to pay.

Wendy Pursey, BALPA's head of membership and career services, said: “Unfortunately, many aspiring pilots who have worked hard to get top-notch A-level qualifications will fall by the wayside because they are unable to fund their training.

“We believe this financial burden has a real impact on pilots and has wider repercussions for the aviation industry.

“Pilot contracts are changing and the big salaries associated with being a pilot are fast disappearing. There are some contracts out there for low-hours pilots which barely pay enough to live on, let alone cover the cost of training.

“Whilst we don’t want to put anyone off a pilot career, we must ensure our future pilot members are entering the industry with their eyes wide open.

“We believe more needs to be done to ensure fresh talent is supported early in their career.

“That’s why BALPA launched its nextGen project to give trainees a voice and lobby the Government and airlines to do more to ensure recruitment is based on talent and not on who has the deepest pockets.”

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