Male pilots outnumber females by 16 to 1 on UK airlines

easyJet has launched an initiative to treble the number of female recruits

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 15 December 2016 18:38 GMT
EasyJet chief executive talks about female pilots

The flight deck appears to be the last professional bastion of male domination. In the typical UK airline, male pilots outnumber females by 16 to 1 — and at Thomson, Britain’s biggest holiday company, the ratio is 33 to 1.

On the day that Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, launched an initiative to recruit at least 20 per cent women in its new intake of pilots, research by The Independent has revealed a severe gender imbalance on the flight deck.

At easyJet, women make up 6 per cent of the total number of pilots. The same proportion prevails at British Airways and Monarch.

Europe’s largest no-frills airline, Ryanair, also has 6 per cent female pilots. The carrier says that 8 per cent of pilots recruited in 2016 are women.

At Thomas Cook Airlines, 8 per cent of first officers — junior pilots — are female. But among captains, the proportion of women falls to below 2 per cent. That is still better than Thomas Cook’s Scandinavian operation, where none of the 121 captains is female.

Flybe performs slightly better than the norm; 7.5 per cent of the airline’s pilots are female, though for captains the proportion of women falls to 5.3 per cent. But at Thomson, just 3 per cent of all pilots are women — reflecting the proportion thought to prevail worldwide.

Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, has launched an initiative aimed at ensuring 20 per cent of new entrant cadet pilots recruited by easyJet in 2020 are female. That represents around 50 female pilots annually.

At easyJet’s Luton airport HQ, she named an Airbus A320 jet after the pioneering aviator, Amy Johnson.

At the ceremony, Julie Westhorp, chair of the British Women Pilots’ Association, said: “I look forward to the day when having a female flight crew is no longer a cause for comment.”

The typical employment profile for women pilots shows that far fewer go on to command aircraft. Dame Carolyn said there are only 450 female captains worldwide, of whom 62 work for easyJet.

One of those captains, Marnie Munns, said: “With the closed flight-deck door policy, we can no longer invite prospective pilots to see what we do.

“Myself and many of my colleagues are highlighting the opportunities of pilot careers to female audiences such as school groups.”

Speaking to The Independent, Dame Carolyn addressed the issue of passengers — both male and female — who say they feel uncomfortable with a woman pilot at the controls: “The only way to do that, I think, is to show how good your female pilots are. They have to pass the same qualifications and stringent tests that a male pilot has to do.

“We, and every other airline, want the best pilots. We’ll never compromise on that. Whether they are male or female, we look for the best.”

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